The Effect of Content on Global Internet Adoption and the Global “Digital Divide”

Media and Content and Internet

Article Snapshot


Nicholas Economides and V. Brian Viard


Management Science, Vol. 61, No. 3, pp. 665-687, 2015


This article demonstrates that the availability of content is an important factor in Internet adoption.

Policy Relevance

Governments and NGOs can spur Internet adoption by creating content for local users.

Main Points

  • The Internet has become widely adopted. However, while some countries see Internet usage rates exceeding 90%, other regions have practically no users.
  • Internet adoption can make a big difference in economic output and can occur quickly, so governments and other organizations might try to encourage Internet use to improve living conditions in countries with low rates of connectivity.
  • One fast, inexpensive way to encourage Internet adoption is to create useful content for potential Internet users.
  • The availability of content increases Internet adoption dramatically: a 10% increase in content availability will, typically, increase the rate of adoption by about 3%.  
    • Content is more likely to encourage adoption in countries with good telephone infrastructure; in countries with weak intellectual property regimes; and in countries with lower levels of income inequality.
    • When a country has a greater diversity of languages, the availability of content in a particular language is more effective in encouraging Internet adoption by speakers of that language.
    • The effect of content availability on Internet adoption is similar to the effects of a country’s demographics and infrastructure, though GDP is by far the strongest predictor of adoption.


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