The world is living in a society in the midst of a digital transformation, where the process of transition to connectivity is well underway, but where more needs to be done to ensure that no one is left behind. In this context, ensuring access to digital technologies and services is necessary for those who otherwise would not have access.
According to data provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), around 60% of the world’s population has access to the Internet. The problem is that the least developed countries are home to the other 40%, i.e., only one in five people can get online. And this is a brake on the development of humanity.
What is the digital inclusion?
Facilitating access to digital technologies and services to those who would otherwise not have access, regardless of age, geographical location, socio-economic background and skills. Digital inclusion means not only access to digital tools, but also the development of the skills needed to use them.
The European Council also stresses that digital inclusion is a process that enables people at risk of social exclusion to have equal resources so that they can participate in economic, social and cultural life with equal opportunities. The aim is that everyone should be able to enjoy a fair and equal lifestyle, have access to fundamental rights and participate in decisions that affect society.
The opposite of this process is the digital divide. This term defines inequality in access to and use of ICTs, Information and Communication Technologies. Access to the Internet is so important that even the UN calls it a key universal right for the development of societies. The same international body aims to achieve universal connectivity by 2030. A real challenge.
In addition to geographical aspects, especially in rural areas, there are other reasons that can maintain the problem of the digital divide, such as gender, age, socio-economic status or cultural reasons. And it is all these obstacles that we must strive to eliminate, as they all result in a lack of technological skills, which makes it difficult to break the “vicious circle” that leads to a lack of motivation and, worst of all, further difficulty in accessing all kinds of technological tools and digital services. It should not be forgotten that the Covid-19 health crisis continues to show its effects in terms of growing inequality.
What are the benefits of digital inclusion?
Technologies such as 5G, Big Data and the Internet of Things are enabling endless opportunities for boosting the economy, as well as for social inclusion, while fostering a sustainable economy, ensuring that human activity will not compromise the planet’s natural resources in the future. Because digital transformation must be inclusive.
Firstly, in addition to access to technologies and infrastructures, citizens have greater access to information and economic opportunities, as well as greater access to public services, especially those related to health and education, which improves their quality of life. Secondly, it can help create opportunities for improved social engagement as it removes barriers to connecting with others, leading to professional improvements and better human connections with family and friends. Digitalisation also keeps people active and engaged in their communities.
There are two highly sensitive groups in this process:
- Digital inclusion of people with disabilities, as technology must ensure accessibility through new designs of devices and content.
- Digital inclusion of elderly people: society as a whole must provide this population group with digital education and foster their digital skills so that they can access all kinds of tools and content.
The goal: for all people to be independent and always connected to the opportunities around them such as leisure, culture, work, health, finance, education.
Inclusive digital education
Inclusive digital education is a fundamental part of digital inclusion, as it ensures that everyone has the opportunity to learn about and use digital technologies. The development of digital skills can also help to promote both trust and safety in digital environments.
Businesses, public administrations and other organisations must work to equip people with basic digital citizenship skills and close gaps between groups, and together they must promote digital education by harnessing the full potential of ICTs. Only in this way can societies continue to grow and transform into more just, equitable and even resilient spaces, with no one left out of the current digital revolution.