by Ole Ho Christiansen
After a year in lockdown most of us are used to living most of our life online. Classes are taught remotely and work is done through Zoom. It can be hard to imagine what life would be like without it. But some people do not have easy access to the internet. This might be because the person does not own a device, but it could also be because the person does not have the necessary technical skills. This is the concept of digital inclusion.
Digital inclusion refers to making sure that everyone has access to the digital world (NDIA, n.d.). This is an important issue because of how essential ICT (Information and communications technology) has become. The people who are affected by this are mainly the elderly, low-income people and other vulnerable socio-demographic groups (Be Connected Network, n.d.). These people are left disproportionately out of the digital world and are considered ‘digitally excluded’ (Be Connected Network, n.d.). This is creating a ‘digital divide’. The digitally excluded miss out on the social and economic benefits the internet provides (Be Connected Network, n.d.).
The pandemic has shown us how important it is for people to be digitally included. Mokgweetsi Masisi, president of Botswana, said that digitalization “is the quickest and most democratic route to reaching everybody … and reconfiguring our citizenry for the new world post-COVID,” (Cheney, 2020). COVID-19 has forced essential services to be pushed online. This has revealed how big the digital divide is (Cheney, 2020).
So how can we close the digital divide? WebJunction offers some solutions (WebJunction, n.d.). To make sure that more people have access to computers, we can make sure that there are public access computers available. The locations of these computers would have to correspond with the locations of defined populations. Also the availability of free wifi hotspots could aid digital inclusion. Another suggestion is to make purchasing a home computer more affordable. This would also require offering low cost broadband (WebJunction, n.d.).
These solutions, however, only solve one part of the problem. It would make computers more available, but not everyone would know how to use them. This is often described as ‘digital literacy’. The NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) describe a digital literate person as someone who “possesses the variety of skills – technical and cognitive – required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats” (NDIA, n.d.). Many people grew up with ICT as an essential part of their life and education and as such possess the required skills. However people who have never interacted with ICT require training to be able to utilise the digital world (NDIA, n.d.). This training is called ‘digital literacy training’ and should be widely accessible if the digital divide is to be reduced. It is also important that the training is offered at trusted and comfortable locations such as libraries, churches, schools and recreation centres (WebJunction, n.d.).
Be Connected Network, n.d. What is Digital Inclusion?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.beconnectednetwork.org.au/news-events/what-digital-inclusion
Bureau of Internet Accessibility, 2017. What is Digital Inclusion?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.boia.org/blog/what-is-digital-inclusion
Cheney, C., 2020. Digital inclusion will be critical to pandemic recovery. [Online]
Available at: https://www.devex.com/news/digital-inclusion-will-be-critical-to-pandemic-recovery-98127
European Commission, n.d. Digital Inclusion for a better EU society. [Online]
Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/digital-inclusion-better-eu-society
Inclusive Docs, n.d. What is Digital Inclusion and Why is it Important?. [Online]
Available at: http://mediawiremobile.com/news/what-is-digital-inclusion-and-why-is-it-important/
NDIA, n.d. Definitions. [Online]
Available at: https://www.digitalinclusion.org/definitions/
NHS, 2021. What we mean by digital inclusion. [Online]
Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/about-nhs-digital/our-work/digital-inclusion/what-digital-inclusion-isWebJunction, n.d. What is Digital Inclusion?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.webjunction.org/explore-topics/digital-inclusion.html