Case Studies: Contemporary Media’s Characteristics in Practice
The Digital Divide in Israel
Abstract Israel serves as an illustrative testbed for the potential of contemporary media to rewrite the rules of social engagement and to create new participatory opportunities for marginalized communities. Indeed, as is common in most Western societies, Israeli society is experiencing a “digital divide,” and here we present some figures from a longitudinal study that represent the dynamics of this divide. The divide affects the two populations described in the following three case studies: Palestinian Israelis (of which the Bedouins are a subgroup) and new immigrants from African/ Middle Eastern descent, as compared respectively with Jewish Israelis and Israelis of European/American descent and Jews born in Israel.
Keywords Digital divide • Israel • Internet use
Israel serves as an illustrative testbed for the potential of contemporary media to rewrite the rules of social engagement, create new participatory opportunities for marginalized communities, and translate to action the theoretical debate on how to give the least advantaged citizens an active role in the design of society. The following chapters, constituting Part II of the book, highlight the uses of media by three marginalized communities
The digital divide study was conducted in collaboration with Orit Ben Harush who, among other responsibilities, conducted the statistical testing.
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016
Amit M. Schejter, N. Tirosh, A Justice-Based Approach for New Media
Policy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41510-9_5
in Israel: Ethiopian immigrants, the Bedouin, and Palestinians, who strive to bring their voice to society at large and to the world. These examples, in which new media in the form of social networking applications and mobile technologies are used to build communities of voice and identity, demonstrate why a justice-based policy in which equality of speech at least equals freedom of expression should serve as a normative ideal and why it should focus first on the least advantaged in society and on their self-perceived needs. The resulting capability building could provide them with a place in society they do not currently even imagine is achievable for them.
Internet penetration has more than doubled in Israel since the introduction of broadband in the early twenty-first century. As Fig. 5.1 demonstrates, until 2010 there was a constant upward trajectory of four to six percentage points per year in the adoption of broadband. However, since 2011, adoption levels have plateaued at around 70 percent. Indeed, as is common in most Western societies, Internet adoption is not identical in the different population groups, a phenomenon most commonly referred to as the digital divide. To further detail these test cases, we should first briefly describe the digital divide in Israel, a divide that influences the populations we studied. As such, we provide in this chapter some figures from a longitudinal study we conducted on the dynamics of the digital divide in Israel as it pertains to the two populations described in the three case
Fig. 5.1 Internet use in Israel, 2002-2013
studies presented subsequently: Palestinian Israelis (of which the Bedouin are a subgroup) and new immigrants of African/Middle Eastern descent, as compared respectively with Jewish Israelis and Israelis of European/ American descent and Israeli-born Jews.
As Fig. 5.2 demonstrates, there is a growing gap, along income levels, between those with and those without Internet access. While in 2002 the difference between those with average incomes and those with low incomes who use the Internet regularly was 16.4 percentage points (37.3 versus 21 percent), by 2013 this difference had more than doubled to 38.6 percentage points. In addition, among people with low-income, Internet connectivity between 2011 and 2013 dropped by 7.9 percentage points (a drop of more than 17 percent), compared to a negligible drop of 1.1 percent among people with average incomes (a drop of 1.4 percent).1
As exhibited in Fig. 5.3, the gap between Jews and Israeli Palestinians connected to the Internet has grown by 17.7 percent (from a 21.5 to a 25.3 percentage point difference).
In a trend resembling that in the income category, the penetration level for home Internet connectivity has plateaued for both groups at the levels they were at in 2011: around 74 percent among Jews and 49 per-
Fig. 5.2 Computer and Internet use by income, 2002-2013
Fig. 5.3 Computer and Internet use by population group, 2002-2013
cent among Palestinians. The plateauing of the curve means that the gap has no chance of diminishing at any time.2 Indeed, as the “stratification” model of the digital divide predicts (Katzman, 1974; Norris, 2001), social inequality will ultimately never be overcome.
When the effect of income is added to the gap between Jews and Palestinians, an unexpected pattern emerges that indicates that the effect of population group (expressed by nationality) persists among members of the majority and the minority who have identical income levels.3 As Fig. 5.4 reveals, not only has the gap between Jews and Palestinians of the same income level not shrunk over the years, it has actually grown from 19.4 percentage points in 2002 (24.5 and 5.1 percent, respectively) to 32.1 percentage points (45.4 and 13.3 percent, respectively) among the lowest income brackets, and from 12.5 percentage points (38.9 and 26. 4 percent, respectively) to 21.9 percentage points (79.7 and 57.8 percent respectively) between Jews and Palestinians with average incomes.4
Fig. 5.4 Internet use by population group and income, 2002-2013
There is a distinct and significant gap in connectivity among Jews in favor of those who have been in Israel for several generations, as Fig. 5.5 demonstrates. Still, Palestinians, none of whom are immigrants, are less connected consistently during the entire period, even in comparison to first-generation Jewish immigrants.
On average, the gap between all groups, when checking for the effect of immigration, is shrinking; it has fallen from 47.6 percentage points between third-generation Israelis and Palestinians in 2002 (60.8 and 13.3 percent, respectively) to 37.3 percentage points in 2013 (86 and 48.8 percent, respectively), a significant drop of 10.3 points (21.6 percent). Between 2002 and 2013, the gap between third-generation Jews and Jewish immigrants shrank from 32.4 percentage points (60.8 and 28.4 percent, respectively) to 24.2 percentage points (86 and 61.9 percent, respectively), a significant drop of 10.2 percentage points (31.5 percent). It has fallen to a lesser and insignificant extent between Jewish immigrants and Palestinians, as the numbers for both these groups are still at the bottom of the hierarchy. In 2002, from a 15.1 percentage point difference (28.4 and 13.3 percent, respectively), the gap dropped to 13.1 percentage points (61.9 and 48.8 percent, respectively), a drop of only 2 percentage points (13.2 percent).
Fig. 5.5 Internet use by parent birthplace
Interestingly, a comparison of countries of origin shows the divide is also shrinking between the different immigrant groups (second-generation). Again, those born to Israeli-born parents dominate in connectivity, and those born within the Palestinian Israeli community are at the bottom of the pyramid. However, the gap, as mentioned earlier, has shrunk by 21.6 percent. Following those born to Jewish Israeli parents, as Fig. 5.5 demonstrates, are the children of immigrants born in Europe/America. The gap there has dropped from 20.8 to 11.9 percentage points. The gap between those born to Jewish Israeli parents born in Israel and those whose parents were born in Asia/Africa has fallen from 32.1 to 25.7 percent. The gap has also dropped between each of the descendants of immigrant groups and the Palestinian Israelis; however, the gap still persists.5
Nevertheless, when accounting for income among the different immigrant groups, one finds that the trends are more complex and that, yet again, the structural discrimination between Jews and Palestinians, and this time also within the Jewish majority between immigrants and old timers, has a strong effect.
- 1. An independent sample t-test was conducted to compare percentage of computer and Internet users of low and average income. There was a significant difference in percentage of computer users for low-income users (M = 18.767, SD = 4.326942) and average-income users (M = 81.233333, SD = 4.3269) conditions; t(22) = -35.362, p = 0.00. There was a significant percentage difference in Internet users among low-income users (M = 16.542, SD = 6.4611) and average-income users (M = 75.125, SD = 23.9650); t(22) = -8.176, p = 0.00.
- 2. An independent sample t-test was conducted to compare the percentage of computer and Internet users among Jews and Arabs. A significant difference was observed in the percentage of computer users among Jews (M = 66.425, SD = 9.6347) and Arabs (M = 39.225, SD = 11.1725); t(22) = 6.3867, p = 0.00. There was a significant difference in the percentage of Internet users among Jews (M = 54.9916, SD = 21.9622) and Arabs (M = 28.4916, SD = 17.1095); t(22) = 3.2973, p = 0.03.
- 3. This is unlike, for example, the gap in the USA between the majority white and minority African American community (Fox & Ramie, 2014)
- 4. A one-way ANOVA between subjects was conducted to compare the effect of population group and income on Internet use for low-/average-income Jews and low-/average-income Arabs. A significant effect of income and population group combined was observed with respect to Internet use at the p < 0.01 level for the four groups [Д3,40) = 13.616071, p = 0.00].
- 5. A one-way ANOVA between subjects was conducted to compare the effect of birthplace on Internet use for Arabs and Jews whose parents were born in Europe-USA, Africa-Asia and Israel. There was not a significant effect of birthplace on Internet use at the p = 0.461 level for the four groups.
Fox, S., & Rainie, L. (2014). The Web at 25 in the U.S. Available at: http://www.
pewinternet.org/2014/02/25/the-web-at-25-in-the-u-s Katzman, N. (1974). The impact of communication technology: Promises and prospects. Journal of Communication, 24(4), 47-58.
Norris, P. (2001). Digital divide: Civic engagement, information poverty, and the internet worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.