2 The digital divide and inclusion
The digital divide is the gap between people in society who have full access to digital technologies (such as the internet and computers) and those who do not (, 2020).
The pandemic highlighted the issue of the digital divide. During periods of home-schooling there were frequent media reports of children who did not have access to technology to be able to join remote lessons. There were also many people who were not able to shop online due to lack of access to technology, digital capabilities or poor infrastructure – often lack of internet access.
A lack of digital skills and access can have a huge negative impact on a person’s life, leading to poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy, increased loneliness and social isolation, less access to jobs and education.
It can mean paying more for essentials, financial exclusion, an increased risk of experiencing poverty. People who are digitally excluded also lack a voice and visibility in the modern world, as government services and democracy increasingly move online.
What’s more, it’s those already at a disadvantage – through age, education, income, disability, or unemployment – who are most likely to be missing out, further widening the social inequality gap.
The Welsh Government’s report on digital inclusion and basic digital skills (gov.wales, 2020) indicates that:
- 60,000 personal internet users (aged 16 or over) can’t demonstrate the skill of using a search engine
- 730,000 personal internet users can’t demonstrate the skills of managing privacy settings
- 19% of disabled people do not personally use the internet and are therefore deemed digitally excluded
- 76% of social housing tenants have internet access compared to 90% owner occupied.
The Digital inclusion and basic digital skills in Wales: 2019–2020 infographic, which summarises the Welsh Government’s Digital inclusion forward look: towards a digital confident Wales strategy, captures the scale of the digital divide in Wales. While some of the numbers may seem low, those in the digital divide are often those that are most vulnerable, excluded from basic inclusion in society or in areas where digital infrastructure is limited.
In the video below, contributors share their insights about digital inclusion, and how to narrow the digital divide.
Activity 5 Research the digital divide and inclusion
Gaining an understanding of the digital divide and approaches to closing the gap within your organisation and local community is essential. This is an area that can be overlooked when thinking about inclusion, as there is an assumption that if you are working you already have the basic skills and access to infrastructure. As more people are working in a hybrid manner, requirements for digital inclusion of those working remotely may go unnoticed.
Reflect on the video above. Then do your own research into the digital divide and inclusion, and think about the following questions.
- Do you recognise any of the challenges raised in relation to your own personal circumstances?
- What do you feel organisations should focus on, and how might they do this?
You may wish to use some of the resources below to help with your research.