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Digital inclusion and the fight against inequality

Lucie Taurines

Digital Inclusion is the solution to an ever-growing problem of exclusion in the world of digital devices, connectivity, and understanding. There is a divide between those who have access to digital tools and understand how to use them and those who don’t or find it very difficult.

The poorest members of our society struggle to afford access to digital devices. Older generations find using digital tools difficult or lack confidence, at a time when many essential public services can now only be accessed digitally. We’ve even found a surprisingly high level of educated young adults who are fully adept at the likes of social media use, yet are unable to use the kinds of tools necessary to function in the modern workplace.

So, if we’re even missing out on the talents of our global youth, what does that mean for the future?

The digital divide is growing

Without further action, the divide is likely to keep growing and grow faster. The exponential rate of technological development shows no sign of slowing.  As a globe, we have been guilty of developing products, services, and tools too fast and without enough focus on the potential repercussions. So it’s crucially important we take a more inclusive approach to technology design and development.

This is a lesson that COVID19 has been instrumental in teaching the wider world. Public services discovered the scope of inequality in access and struggled to reach parts of the population with critical information and aid. Many families discovered problems when they were forced to rely on devices to give their children access to their education. In fact, children have been seen to drop out of school, due to an inability to access devices or to use them well enough in order to learn.

If digital inclusion was once far from the minds of people and even governments, it is now on their radar, giving us the perfect opportunity to act and reverse the trend. So, what’s needed to create the solutions we need?

Together we can reverse the trend

To reduce the digital divide we need to look at two main areas – digital literacy for life and digital training for employment.

Digital literacy ensures enough digital competence to enable people to live their lives in an ever more digital world. Digital training ensures as many people as possible have access to the training they need to bring their talents to the workplace and benefit society. We need to look at innovative solutions to address societal challenges and develop evidence-based policies that improve digital inclusion at an infrastructure level.

If 2020/21 has taught us all anything, it’s that doing so is far harder alone. We need to build alliances and work together in order to move fast enough and effectively enough to keep up with our rapid technological progress.

Local alliances are crucial – that is why all our Digital Academies are run hand in hand with local NGos partners. But a global view is just as important and the reason Capgemini is part of a worldwide coalition called Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG). This alliance, in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, seeks to identify and tackle the core global issues that lead to digital exclusion and develop plans that can be executed at a local level.

The impact is clear

When we look at the results of our digital inclusion programs at Capgemini, the figures speak for themselves. But the stories we hear from those involved are more inspiring on many levels.

The first is a story about Elamin, from the Code Your Future program run in the UK. He was studying for a computer science degree in Sudan, Africa, but came to the UK as a refugee, unable to complete his studies. After showing such huge promise during the program, he was hired at Capgemini, quickly promoted and today is a valued colleague, currently leading a workstream for one of our biggest clients in the UK.

The second involves a young girl from Ceylon in India, who took part in another Capgemini partnership initiative, called Enlight – a girl child education program seeking to provide life skills to young girls in difficult circumstances. She suffers from HIV and when asked the question, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’, she answered very simply – ‘To be a doctor, so I can invent a vaccine and stop other children from going through what I have.’

Stories like these and many more, prove that digital inclusion programs go beyond providing digital skills. They provide the hope and confidence people need to create ambitions and fulfill their potential. Discovering and enabling talent such as this doesn’t simply help the individual involved, but benefits business and our society as a whole. Everyone who benefits will be even more passionate about passing the opportunity they have had on to others in need.

And when that happens, we can close the digital divide even faster.