What is Digital Inclusion?
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Digital inclusion is commonly defined as “the incorporation of information technologies into the community in order to promote education and improve the quality of life.”
This can mean different things to different people, for example:
- closing the “Digital Divide” - the gap between those enabled and empowered to participate in information and knowledge based society and those who are not
- making technology and electronic services accessible and usable for people with disabilities or the elderly
- giving people broadband internet access
- preventing economic exclusion from electronic commercial and public services that save time and money
- using any digital technology to tackle social exclusion
- using any digital technology in communities to tackle area-based deprivation
- giving people the basic ICT skills to participate in the knowledge economy leading to improved macro-economic performance
It is generally accepted the following factors contribute to the digital divide:
- Access to equipment or connections
This can be construed as ownership of technology or having a connection at home, availability of a connection at convenient locations in everyday life, or having access to the internet anywhere, including at public access points. Examples of barriers which inhibit take-up include affordability, lack of time, or lack of training and support.
- Skills, confidence and capability to use information technologies
Unmet primary needs may present barriers to effective use. Literacy difficulties, for example, make use of the internet problematic, and some disabilities may present challenges – for example visual impairments or dyslexia can make it difficult to read text on an ordinary screen. Low confidence is relevant particularly for those without supportive family members or friends from whom they are able to learn.
Perceptions of the relevance of ICT to individuals’ lives and expectations of what sort of interaction is possible can be a barrier. People need to be able to understand what the internet can do, and how that can be relevant to their everyday lives.
- Use of technologies
What people do with technology, how much of the functionality they use or understand, and how confident they feel using it. Functional capability is arguably even more significant than functional access in considering levels or depths of inclusion and exclusion.