PERSPECTIVE: Revisiting the Digital Divide: An Analysis of Mobile Technology Depth and Service Breadth in the BRIC Countries


Address correspondence to: Alina M. Chircu, Information and Process Management Department, McCallum School of Business, Bentley University, Waltham, MA 02452. E-mail:


Can mobile communication technologies bridge the digital divide between developing and developed countries? This paper shows that the divide looks differently from what was previously thought for the fastest-growing developing countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) based on 2006 data. While mobile technology depth (number subscriptions as percentage of population) is lower in BRIC, it has been rapidly growing, equaling, or surpassing some developed countries for BRIC such as Russia and Brazil. BRIC such as India and Russia also equal or surpass several developed countries in 2006 in terms of mobile technology breadth (service variety) on 34 individual and five categories of mobile services available worldwide. While some BRIC may be behind developed countries on one of these dimensions in 2006, they are ahead on the other dimension. Thus, the digital divide between BRIC and developed countries can be narrower, absent, or even reversed, depending on the metric used. This paper argues that BRIC can serve as frontrunners whose lessons on technology diffusion can be applied in other developing countries. The paper presents implications for new product and innovation management and digital divide research and for policy making and business processes for high-tech companies in BRIC and other developing countries.