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Why is digital inclusion so important?

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Image of a person's hands holding a touchscreen smartphone
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Nowadays, it feels like more and more things are done online. From shopping and banking to working and studying, and even connecting with friends. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, people are continuing to turn to the digital realm in order to reach out to the wider world.

Here, we take a look at how this can impact those on the other side of the digital divide – and why digital inclusion is so important.

What is the digital divide?

The digital divide is a growing concern across the UK, referring to the gap between people who have access to the internet and devices to use it on, and those who do not. Those who don’t have access are often from lower-income backgrounds, and this lack of access makes it impossible to reach out for help and support, and even results in poorer health for some.

What is digital inclusion?

Digital inclusion is the movement to ensure that everyone, regardless of their age, income or background has equal access to the technology they need to enjoy the benefits of the digital world. As the world moves online, this is becoming a true human rights issue.

Financial implications

Going online isn’t just something we do for fun anymore. Now it is an everyday part of life, and yet it remains inaccessible to many. This can be challenging just from a day to day perspective, as many utility providers are harder to work with if you do not have access to their website – it can be difficult to sign up and pay your bills. 

Not only that, but banking is now also done primarily online. Simply by not having digital inclusion as a standard across society, people can more easily slip through the cracks by missing out on important communications and ease of use. Being online is a vital service for many Disabled people too, who may struggle to get to banks, or even find that their needs are not supported in-branch. 

The social aspect

With loneliness levels rising due to lockdowns and social distancing, many turned to Zoom calls and social media to keep in touch with family and friends, and to make new connections. However, for those who don’t have access to the right technology, this is impossible – increasing loneliness and exacerbating the poor mental health that can be associated with isolation. This has an especially large and ongoing impact on older people, as well as Disabled people, as both groups may spend more time than average at home.

Equality of opportunity

Not only does digital inclusion improve your access to financial facilities, but it also increases the opportunities open to you. Many employers only share the details of jobs online, and a host of training and education opportunities take place online, too. Even being aware of these can be a privilege not afforded to those who cannot access the internet regularly.

The digital revolution is unlikely to slow down any time soon, so digital inclusion is more important than ever before. Making sure that everyone has access to the digital tools they need to be part of the changing world is something that everyone should be invested in.

by Jessica Pierce, Content Producer, and Researcher

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