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Assessing the Digital Divide and its Regional Determinants: Evidence from a Web-Scraping Analysis

Anita Thonipara, Rolf Sternberg, Till Proeger and Lukas Haefner

No 25/2020, ifh Working Papers from Volkswirtschaftliches Institut für Mittelstand und Handwerk an der Universität Göttingen (ifh)

Abstract: Following the 'death of distance' postulate, digitization may reduce or even eliminate the penalty of firms being located in rural areas compared with those in urban agglomerations. Despite many recent attempts to measure digitization effects across space, there remains a lack of empirical evidence regarding the adoption of digital technologies from an explicit spatial perspective. Using web-scraping data for a sample of 345,000 small firms in Germany, we analyze the determinants of website prevalence. Comparing urban with rural areas, we show that running a website - as a proxy for the degree of digitization of the respective firm - is highly dependent on location, whereby firms in urban areas are almost twice as likely to run websites compared with those located in rural areas. Our county-level analysis shows that a high population density, a young population and a high educational level have a positive and significant association with the probability that firms run websites. Surprisingly, we find a negative and significant association of gross domestic product per capita with website prevalence, which is driven by urban regions. There are no differences between urban, semi-urban and rural areas in terms of website up-to-dateness as well as social media prevalence. We conclude that there is a substantial digital divide and discuss policy implications.

Keywords: Digital divide; digitization; rural; Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises; urban; web-scraping (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D22 L22 L26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-big, nep-geo, nep-ict, nep-pay, nep-sbm and nep-ure
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