Digital inclusion, as part of the digital inclusion ecosystem, refers to the ability of individuals and communities, particularly those disadvantaged and underrepresented, to access and use information and communications technologies ( ICT). Inclusive digital ecosystems not only have a positive societal impact, but also influence economic growth and empower those disadvantaged to become active digital citizens. In this way, individuals can benefit from greater access to information, job and educational opportunities, more leisure alternatives, better time management, performance and increased productivity.
Those who lack these capabilities are considered ‘digitally excluded’, mainly because they can lack skills, confidence and motivation, along with having limited or no access to equipment and connectivity. This can create additional layers of social exclusion and exacerbate social and economic problems. Getting online could create life-enhancing opportunities, but it could also be life-changing!
To combat digital exclusion and create a more inclusive digital ecosystem, several aspects need to be considered:
- Affordable and subsidised broadband service and programs tailored to all the users’ needs;
- Multilingual digital literacy and digital skill training tailored to all the users’ needs;
- Hardware and software technical support for all users;
- Accessible services that are designed to meet all users’ needs, including those dependent on assistive technology to access digital devices.
The European Commission, within the Horizon 2020 programme, funds a multitude of digital inclusion projects, especially in the field of accessibility, aimed at people with different types of disability. The EU is committed to create an ecosystem that ensures that everybody can contribute to and benefit from the digital world. Regionally, the EU is looking to foster digital inclusion through policy areas such as digital skills, active and assistive living, and social inclusion, by working on different aspects:
- Access to ICT, via more accessible infrastructure, affordable prices and ease of use;
- Assistive technologies, which supports access for people with disabilities in the digital world;
- Digital literacy, by empowering individuals to fight the digital divide through ICT in education;
- Social inclusion, focusing on the most disadvantaged sectors of society with specific programmes that help them to enter the digital world.