Why Digital Inclusion is at the heart of our response to COVID-19

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As we deal with these unprecedented times with state measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the adverse consequences are being felt the hardest by those marginalized due to existing social inequalities.

The ongoing push to go digital has made the gaping digital divide more stark, raising an important question – How to bring the digitally excluded online? How to stop the digital divide from becoming even wider?

Much before the COVID-19 pandemic led to a massive digital push overnight, we, at Capgemini, were working to address this issue through concrete Digital Inclusion actions backed by extensive research. Digital Inclusion has been an integral part of our existing social impact effort, the Architects of Positive Futures. And now, it is at the heart of our response to COVID-19.

The current situation: for many, access to basic necessities is a bigger challenge

With nations imposing social distancing to deal with the COVID-19 situation, we are supposed to stay at home as much possible and maintain social distance to protect ourselves; but many people do not have that privilege. The social distancing measures have further exposed social inequalities and its impact on a large section of the population who do not have the means to protect themselves against the virus. The social distancing measures require means and resources that a large section of the population lacks. Right now, meeting basic needs is a major challenge for millions across the world, be it the homeless people in the developed nations or the daily wage laborers in the developing countries.

With social distancing in place, the digitally excluded are at a great disadvantage

The measures we need to tackle this health crisis has put the digitally excluded people in a precarious situation. A lot of people, especially those from the marginalized sections of society, do not have access to digital devices or the required skills to use digital technologies. It is proving to be particularly challenging for such people to access essential services, which have rapidly moved online.

It is shocking to see that a large number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds are losing out on education because they do not have access to the internet or the digital skills to take part in online classes. Older people are finding it difficult to get basic things done such as sourcing groceries or medicines. People with mental health conditions are struggling more than others to cope with isolation.

What can we do? Donate. Volunteer. Inspire.

Images show our colleagues distributing face masks, sanitizers and food packets.

This humanitarian crisis calls for joint efforts at a global scale to help marginalized people and support frontline organizations. To tide over this unprecedented global challenge, we are using our skills and network to support our people, our clients and business partners, and the communities where we operate.

At Capgemini, our people are our biggest strength and their compassion is at the heart of our actions and decisions. Right from the onset of this crisis, our colleagues were quick to swing into action. Across geographies, our colleagues are contributing in cash and kind to help the people from the most disadvantaged sections. We are also supporting our charity partners such as Red Cross and Prince’s Trust in the UK, NGOs Sarthak and  Parisar Asha in India, Samu Social International and Konexio in France, etc. who are working extensively to aid the poor. In North America, we supported several local businesses to go digital during this period via Keep Small Strong platform.

To help the frontline organizations who are leading this fight for us, we have donated hundreds of thousands personal protection gears and medical equipment. Besides, we are also working closely with local governments to provide the support they need in this time of crisis.

In addition, we are working on innovative solutions proposed by our colleagues in response to a recent companywide internal “Call for Ideas.” We received more than 250 ideas from team members in just two weeks, and many of these are already under construction. All these ideas are based on our skills and expertise, and they all have one thing in common: our commitment to work towards a better, digitally inclusive future.

To accelerate the realization of these proposals, we have created the Social Response Unit (SRU). This dedicated team, helmed by our CSR leader Shobha Meera, will facilitate the build and execution of these COVID-19 solution in a coordinated manner.

We are happy to share one of the projects that involves 3D printing of visors and face shields for frontline worker and first responders. Check out the video for more details.

For more information about the other projects, read the Press Release.

The way forward

Technology can help us tackle this global challenge and keep people safe. As we look around, we are more determined to continue our efforts on Digital Inclusion, which is imperative for an inclusive future and equal opportunities for everyone.

Now is also the time to carve out a long-term plan of inclusive growth and sustainability. This requires major policy changes and executive decisions, both on the part of the private and public sector players. Digital Inclusion needs to be a top priority for governments and businesses. Given the magnitude of the task, we must scale up collaboration and cooperation to ensure we do not leave the vulnerable behind in the new world, that’s likely to emerge after COVID-19.

To learn more about how to bring the digitally excluded online, check out a new report by the Capgemini Research Institute on the topic – The Great Digital Divide: Why bringing the digitally excluded online should be a global priority.

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