As with many general concepts, there aren't various definitions of the term "digital divide". The term has always sought to capture a more complex and dynamic phenomenon. It initially referred to the ownership of a computer, but later referred to access to the Internet, and more recently it has centered on broadband network access. The term can mean not only unequal access to computer hardware, but also inequalities between groups of people in the ability to use information technology fully.
Criteria often used to distinguish between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' of the digital divide tend to focus on access to hardware, access to the internet, and details relating to both categories. Lisa Servon argued in 2002 that the digital divide "is a symptom of a larger and more complex problem -- the problem of persistent poverty and inequality". As described by Mehra (2004), the four major components that contribute to digital divide are “socioeconomic status, with income, educational level, and race among other factors associated with technological attainment”.
Recognition of digital divide as an immense problem has led scholars, policy makers, and the public to understand the “potential of the internet to improve everyday life for those on the margins of society and to achieve greater social equity and empowerment”.