Narrowing the age‐based digital divide: Developing digital capability through social activities

Yang Zhao, Tao Zhang*, Rohit K. Dasgupta, Renpin Xia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Healthcare information technologies (HIT) have shown great potential for improving the effectiveness and quality of healthcare services. However, the inequal ability of older adults to use HIT may limit their exploitation of these benefits. To narrow the age‐based “digital divide”, this research further develops the concept of digital capability and emphasises the link between older adults and their social context. Based on a qualitative inductive study of 33 participants, who included Chinese patients and their family members, we generate a novel theoretical model for understanding the process by which social activities may shape older adults' digital capabilities. Based on the model, we suggest two strategies that might encourage older adults to engage with HIT. This research contributes to the information systems (IS) literature by strengthening digital capability as a conceptual lens to investigate individuals' engagement with information communication technologies (ICTs). It also extends research on the social context for ICT use by revealing how social processes at multiple levels influence digital capability development. Finally, this study offers practical implications for governments and private sectors to encourage and promote ICT use by older adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-298
Number of pages31
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Information Systems Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


  • digital capability
  • social context
  • digital divide
  • older adults
  • healthcare information technologies


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