Understanding the Digital Divide through Systems Theory – Part I

How do we define the digital divide with marginalized or vulnerable populations? Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) systems theory can elaborate on the interplay a digital divide has on individuals and systems as they interact. I believe digital divide is a term needing more definition. Systems theory can illuminate issues the digital divide has throughout human development. The next series of posts are to be focused upon the explanation of digital divide and its relation to the subsystems of micro, meso, exo, macro, and chrono in social work practice. I expanded on the systems classification to include a broad definition of how each area may be impacted digitally.

Areas of Potential Digital Divide
age, sex, health, mental health, socioeconomic status, culture
Access and /or knowledge or digital tools (computer, tablet, smart phone), software, apps, game systems, digital footprint, technological innovations applicable to life skills
School, parenting, extracurricular activities, social media, health services, gaming
Caregivers/parents use of technology, social, economic or political systems, school digital integration, community resources integration of technology, electronic medical records, peers tech literacy, big data
Cultural, socioeconomic, political, spiritual, and sexual influence of attitudes/values toward technological resources and tools, laws or digital resource rules governing technological uses, business media, big data
Timing of introduction to digital tools, generational differences regarding introduction of technology, effects of crisis related to positive and negative technology impact, effects of the rapid progression of technological advances
The first system to be discussed is the microsystem. Feel free to debate how you see the digital divide occurring with your populations.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. International Encyclopedia of Education, 3(2),


Written By Ellen Belluomini, LCSW

Understanding the Digital Divide through Systems Theory – Part I was originally published @ Bridging the Digital Divide in Social Work Practice and has been syndicated with permission.

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