ICTs for employability and empowerment : an analytical framework for addressing the digital divide in urban livelihoods
Loh, Yvonne Ai-Chi
Date of Issue2018
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
Prevailing discussions in the digital divide field have focussed on the roles which technology access and usage play in achieving economic well-being in the developing countries. However, rising global inequality has given rise to a sub-class of citizens in the developed economies, classified as the working poor, for whom the impact of ICTs differs from those observed in developing economies. This thesis makes use of Amartya Sen’s capability approach, as a theoretical framework to examine the dependent variables of well-being, where one’s sense of employability was posited as personal economic well-being, for self-perceived employability has been found to be positively correlated with employment outcomes (Fugate, Kinicki, & Ashforth, 2004; Koen, Klehe, & Van Vianen, 2013; McArdle, Waters, Briscoe, & Hall, 2007). In addition to self-perceived employability, self-perceived empowerment is presented as an indication of non-economic well-being. The independent variables are examined with Selwyn’s (2010) digital divide assessment framework guiding the factor analyses to refine the ICT measures of access, usage and appropriation (the predictors) into more granular sub-factors that are based on the participants’ attribution of these ICT assets to his or her outcomes of self-perceived employability and empowerment. Hierarchical regression techniques reveal that, instead of access, higher-order levels of ICT usage and appropriation are positively associated with the dependent variables of personal well-being. The findings challenge traditional digital divide paradigms which advocate that access to technology is a sufficient condition to resolve problems of inequality. This thesis contributes to the discussion on digital divide from multiple perspectives. Firstly, it broadens the field’s scope to include marginalised citizens, in developed countries, who are affected by rising inequality. Secondly, it offers a theoretical insight into the non-economic outcomes of personal well-being, e.g. psychological empowerment, when considering divide outcomes, and thirdly, it provides conceptual clarity to the polysemy of the digital divide inequalities by providing an analytical and methodological measurement guideline to what exactly are the three levels of the digital divide. Lastly, the thesis’ results provide a basis for policy recommendations to improve both the economic prospects and the non-economic well-being of those marginalised constituents of society, through higher-order ICT skills’ training.
Nanyang Technological University