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Abstract

While we now know the most important determinants of the digital divide, such as income, skills, and infrastructure, little has been written about how these variables relate to one another. Yet, it is on the basis of one's answer to this question that the difficulty of closing the divide ultimately depends. In this article, I have sought to challenge the (implicit) prevailing assumption in most of the digital-preparedness literature that variables can be perfectly substituted for one another and, hence, added together. In particular, and drawing on available evidence, I view the relationship between, say computers and computer skills, as being nearer the opposite extreme, of totally limited substitutability. On this basis, I suggest that the components of digital-preparedness indexes be multiplied rather than added. Using multiplication rather than addition in most current indexes of digital preparedness reveals a substantial understatement of the real difficulty in closing the digital divide and a different set of policies to deal with this larger problem. Such policies should include sharing arrangements and the use of intermediaries.