Adapting global methodologies to digital inequalities research in a multicultural Arab environment

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Al-Sumait, Fahed
Helsper, Ellen J.
Rahali, Miriam
Journal Article
As Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), such as the internet and mobile phones, facilitate the spread of knowledge and interactions across borders in previously unimagined ways, questions are being asked about whether the benefits of this digitization process are equally distributed between and within countries. Motivated by the way technology adoption and usage patterns may differ in the Arab Middle East, this paper examines how the Kuwaiti context shapes people’s understanding of a survey instrument used for evaluating digital inequalities, as they relate to access, skills and engagement, and outcomes of ICT use. Specifically, it discusses the adaptation and validation of the survey measures of socio-digital inequalities through a process of cognitive interviewing and provides insight into the theoretical and empirical linkages between cultural conceptions of digital and traditional inequalities in ways that explore both their universal and contextual aspects, or denotative and connotative meanings. Evidence suggests that important cross-cultural complications relate to language issues, socio-economic conditions, citizenship, and differing perceptions of social desirability. These findings offer important considerations for improving the reliability and validity of future survey-scale adaptations in the broader MENA region, especially in countries containing significant multicultural populations. Simultaneously, they call into question the extent to which global conceptualizations of digital inequalities and their measures reflect complex local realities.