Discussion paper

DP18354 Internet (Power) to the People: How to Bridge the Digital Divide

Due to global lockdowns driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, the pervasiveness of inequalities in digital access is more salient. As a result, finding strategies to narrow the digital divide has moved to the forefront of public policy. We examine the impact of a pricing subsidy in Colombia to learn about what hinders low-income populations from adopting internet services. Our model allows take-up to depend on the types of plans offered as well as the rate of diffusion in the neighborhood. We find that increasing the diffusion rate (via internet literacy programs) is more beneficial to takeup among households in the lowest socioeconomic markets and in less technically savvy markets relative to a pricing subsidy. Pricing subsidies reduce the digital divide by 13% points but over half of that is due to the impact on the diffusion rate. Our results suggest that non-price policies are equally important to bridge the digital divide.


Hidalgo, J and M Sovinsky (2023), ‘DP18354 Internet (Power) to the People: How to Bridge the Digital Divide‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18354. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18354