Mind the Gap: Reducing Inequality & Promoting Digital Inclusion

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Social inequality is the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions or statuses within a group or society. For example, child poverty and lacking access to education and essential needs such as food and shelter are forms of social inequality. 

Social inequality can happen in multiple ways, and it is not always as noticeable. Remember that next time at school or even when you are posting on social media, not everyone might have the same access to products and information as you do. To prevent this, we need to look into social inclusion. 

The United Nations defines Social Inclusion as improving participation in society, particularly for disadvantaged people, by enhancing opportunities and allowing access to resources. For these people, participation may be hindered due to the lack of access to material resources, such as income, employment, land and housing, or such services as education and health care. 

Think of it this way, if you don't have the ingredients needed for baking a cake, it doesn't matter how hard you try to make one. You won't be able to; the same happens when people don't have access to education, jobs, or houses. 

 

Thinking Cap On

Imagine you have to do a school project about Whales, and you don't have access to the internet at home or access to a smartphone. What would you do? Where do you start looking for information, and how long do you think it will take you to gather all the information you need? Consider the local resources available. 

 

Closing Gaps with Digital Inclusion 

Digital inclusion, or rather, reducing digital exclusion, is about making sure that people can use the internet to do things that benefit their day to day activities. This includes knowing how to use a computer or smartphone and having access to technology. Many people around the world live in areas without internet access, even in the United States. Some people simply don't have the money to own a computer or smartphone at home; Which means, not only they cannot use their phones for games or social media, but also they can't purchase goods online, access online banking, access educational resources or information needed to do their jobs. 

This is known as digital poverty. 

Believe it or not, 21 million Americans still lack access to a broadband-level internet connection. Roughly 146 million people in the U.S. (about 45 per cent of the population, or equivalent to the entire population of Russia) do not have access to a low-priced plan for residential wired broadband.*

*https://broadbandnow.com/report/2019-digital-inclusion-trailblazers/ 

This happens all over the world. In some countries, the internet is not even accessible to students, even from their schools. This means learning, researching and getting access to information becomes impossible for these kids. Without access to educational resources, employment also becomes harder to obtain and, therefore, poverty. 


Tackling Digital Poverty 

In 2014, in Portland, Oregon, the  Digital Inclusion Network was formed. A coalition aimed at "raising awareness about digital barriers and developing solutions to bridging the digital divide". The group has held an annual Digital Inclusion Summit and the "Digital Inclusion Week" for the city since 2018. 

In Austin, Texas, the Unlocking The Connection program helps bring free internet access to low-income communities, refurbished computers and digital literacy courses. Additionally, the city's Grant For Technology Opportunities Program (GTOPs) provides financial assistance for upgrading computer labs and improving free, basic web access for all residents.

The City of Raleigh in North Carolina initiated the Digital Connectors program, improving access, awareness, and digital education in the city since 2011. 

Boston, Massachusetts, has long been a champion for digital inclusion, with their Tech Goes on with the Home program. 94% of Boston's residents are now connected to the internet with broadband-level speeds, and new initiatives, such as the Digital Equity Fund, are working toward closing the digital poverty gap, ensuring that all residents have the means and skill to thrive in a digital economy. 

How would you change the world? 

 


 

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Thinking Cap On: 

Imagine a world in which everyone has access to digital literacy and technology. What would you do to help children from your community use digital resources to develop future economies? 

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