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Inclusion is a trending word these days but what does it mean in the context of the digital world?

Inclusion simply means making someone feel like they belong, including them in activities and groups, or helping them feel at ease and at home in an environment. Digital inclusion means that different marginalized groups have an equal chance to access, afford, learn, and use technology.

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In most cases, digital technology refers to not just the use of different equipment, devices, software, and hardware, but also access to the internet. Unfortunately, many people around the world in marginalized communities are being excluded from digital environments.

This has a detrimental impact on societies, education, healthcare, and economies, leading to a digital divide between people who can use and access technology, and those who can't.

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Why do we need digital literacy and inclusion?

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It helps you...

  • stay connected with friends, work, and news through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin)

  • manage your health through apps and devices (Maven Clinic)

  • deal with emergencies (Amber Alert) or learn about public health restrictions or vaccines

  • navigate cities (Google Maps)

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It gives you...

  • immediate access to information (Google)

  • the flexibility to work from anywhere (Upwork)

  • the option to get schooling and different types of learning online (Google Classroom, YouTube)

  • entertainment and music options (Spotify, Netflix)

  • the opportunity to meet new people (Bumble, Tinder)

  • convenience for shopping, travel, and transportation (Uber, Amazon)

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It allows you to...

  • become a content creator (Twitch, TikTok)

  • receive, send, or manage money (PayPal)

  • rent homes wherever and whenever (Airbnb)

  • capture your everyday memories and share them with others (Instagram)

  • vote or participate in political discussions

Where is digital inclusion the highest?

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According to the Inclusive Internet Index 2021 , Singapore, South Korea, and the United States have the highest digital inclusion.

On the other hand, countries like Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Congo have the lowest internet inclusivity in the world.

This index bases its findings on availability, affordability, cultural relevance, and audience readiness when it comes to the internet.

Why is digital inclusion so important for women and girls?

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When women and girls face barriers to digital tools through lack of access, understanding, or affordability, they'll have limited ability to:

  • be part of political discourse or vote

  • get online jobs or have freelance online income

  • pursue STEM careers

  • learn new subjects

  • start, build, and scale online businesses

  • contribute to the economy

  • access correct, factual information about their bodies, health, and the world in general

  • understand, report, or seek therapy for abuse and violence

  • avoid being scammed

How can we improve digital inclusion?

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  • teach digital skills to kids early on

  • provide better internet infrastructure

  • impose fewer taxes on digital technology

  • design tech with accessibility in mind

  • build interest in tech through games and movies

  • provide access to public computers through libraries

  • offer more free wifi hotspots

  • give out easy low-interest loans for tech purchases

  • make the internet free for all

Are digital literacy and digital inclusion the same thing?

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Not exactly, but they're linked! Digital literacy is having the skillsets and know-how to effectively use the internet, mobile phones, or other hardware and software. Without digital literacy, it's hard to be included in the digital world!

A digitally literate person understands not just the usage of tech, but also is aware of privacy protocols and online risks, and practices healthy online habits.

Which communities are most vulnerable to digital exclusion?

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Older adults

25% of people ages 65 and above in the US said they have never used the internet or accessed it at home.

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Rural, remote communities

Consistent, reliable internet infrastructure hasn't been laid out in many parts of the world and this makes it difficult for rural populations to access digital education and health services.

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People with disabilities

People with physical disabilities that impact their hands or movement, or those with learning disabilities, can often struggle with using technology primarily designed for able-bodied people.

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Women and girls

In Pakistan, due to existing cultural and social barriers, there's a huge gap between internet access and mobile phone ownership between men versus women.

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Refugees, the unhoused, Indigenous people, and at-risk youth

UNHCR states that as compared to the rest of population, refugees are 50% less likely to own internet-enabled phone.

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People affected by war or natural disasters

Bush fires, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes, and wars leave many people homeless without their phones, incomes, or savings.

What causes digital exclusion?

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  • Growing up with low literacy

  • Fear and distrust of technology

  • Limited affordability of technology

  • Digital illiteracy

  • Living in remote, inaccessible locations

  • Lack of interest or motivation to use tech

  • Lack of tech skills

Quiz

Farhan lives in a remote area in Pakistan and can't access the internet reliably through his service provider. Often he walks for hours to the marketplace to find a stable connection. This is due to:

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How can you help bridge the digital divide?

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This Byte has been authored by

SK

Saba Khalid

Founder & CEO at Aurat Raaj