Access denied? Digital inequality in transport services

Anne Durand, Toon Zijlstra, Niels van Oort, Sascha Hoogendoorn-Lanser, Serge Hoogendoorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Digitalisation in transport services offers many benefits for travellers. However, not everyone is willing or able to follow the new, more or less formal requirements digitalisation has brought along. Existing reviews on the intersection between Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and mobility cover a range of vantage points, but the perspective of how various levels of engagement with digital technologies affect access and navigation of transport services has not been addressed yet. In communication science, studying disparities in terms of ICT appropriation and their consequences is known as digital inequality research. This review paper aims at shedding light on what digital inequality in the context of transport services consists of and what its consequences are. To do so, we define and use a conceptual framework for the analysis of digital inequality in transport services. The review of the twenty-five papers, as selected in our systematic literature search, shows that there is a burgeoning interest in this topic. Vulnerability to digitalisation in transport services exists along dimensions of age, income, education, ethnicity, gender and geographical region. We find that motivations and material access get more attention than digital skills and effective usage. Nevertheless, literature acknowledges that having material access to technology does not mean that people benefit from what technology has to offer. Furthermore, the characteristics of ICTs impact one’s possibilities to access digital technologies, such as how user-friendly a technology is. Data-driven and algorithm-based decision-making present a particularly pernicious form of digital exclusion from transport services. As digital technologies are progressively becoming indispensable to navigate the world of transport services, low levels of digital engagement may create a new layer of transport disadvantage, possibly on top of existing ones. Although digitalisation can be part of the solution to transport disadvantage, it can also be part of the problem. With network effects at play, what might start as a relative disadvantage may turn into an absolute disadvantage. Given the nascent state of research on digital inequality in transport services, much remains to be understood. Suggested research avenues include mechanisms of digital exclusion from transport services, the contribution of digital inequality to transport disadvantage, and importantly, solutions to mitigate its impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalTransport Reviews
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • digital divide
  • Digital inequality
  • mobility services
  • public transport
  • social exclusion
  • transport disadvantage

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