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Paris, May 5, 2020 – There is an urgent need to tackle the sharp digital divide between the world’s online and offline populations, according to the latest research from the Capgemini Research Institute, and intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its latest report, launched today, highlights that the responsibility for addressing digital exclusion lies jointly with public and private organizations, who must come together to ensure that access to essential services isn’t denied to the digitally marginalized.
“The Great Digital Divide: Why bringing the digitally excluded online should be a global priority” reveals that even before the pandemic hit, 69% of people without online access were living in poverty and that 48% of the offline population wanted access to the internet – trends that will have intensified due to worldwide events over recent months.
The report highlights that even without the global pandemic the digital divide intersects age, income and experience. Nearly 40% of offline people living in poverty have never used the internet because of its cost, and the age group with the highest proportion offline in the sample is those between 18 and 36 years old (43%). Complexity of using the internet (36%) and a perceived “lack of interest” stemming from fear (38%) was also cited by certain segments of the offline population. These reasons mean that people are unable to access public services such as critical healthcare information as governments increasingly move to online resources.
COVID-19 has demanded a global change in how people live, work and socialize; as unemployment soars and people isolate from their communities, a basic level of digital inclusion has become almost universally vital. Conducted just prior to the outbreak, the research findings are now even more pertinent in the current context – with the increasing reliance on digital services exacerbating what was already a desperate situation for the offline population.
Key findings from the report include:
Being offline leads to social exclusion and hinders access to public services
Being offline limits career mobility
Difficulty in applying for jobs online and a lack of access to online learning and education tools can make upwards career mobility more challenging for the offline population, while a lack of digital skills development can inhibit the potential for career mobility once in a role:
The digital divide is also about a skills and learning divide
The digital divide is not just about access, it’s about improving skills and learning for those who are online. By improving their online skills, respondents said they could educate themselves better and find a better paying job (35%), give their children more opportunities (34%), not struggle to pay bills (33%) and get public benefits they don’t currently have (32%.)
The responsibility of bridging the gap must be shared
Capgemini’s research notes that the responsibility for digital inclusion and access to the internet cannot fall to one group. Private organizations need to consider their role in today’s world – increasingly beholden not only to stakeholders but also to their customers, employees and communities, they must look more broadly at how they can benefit society in the long term by incorporating digital inclusion and equality into their business strategy. Meanwhile, governments and the public sector need to play a leading role in enabling internet access and availability, especially for marginalized communities. This can be tackled at several levels: internet access in public spaces, internet access in private homes, as well as with the acquisition of the necessary fundamental digital skills; but it means improving greater accessibility to online public services and making sure to maintain low costs for consumers.
Together, organizations and policy makers need to work to build a global community of action on digital inclusion. They can mobilize peers, NGOs, academics, and governments to foster evidence-based policies on digital inclusion and work with partners to promote digital inclusion through pro-bono projects that leverage their expertise.
“COVID-19 is likely to have a lasting impact on access to public services and attitudes to opportunities like remote working, so there’s a collective responsibility for organizations which work to challenge the digital divide do so in a way that it creates a long-term change, not just a quick fix,” said Lucie Taurines, Global Head of Digital Inclusion at Capgemini. “In the wake of this pandemic, we expect to see a closing of the digital gap – for example, elderly people who have previously not felt a need for digital access will quickly find themselves engaging with digital tools in place of face-to-face socializing and the provision of goods. However, this is reserved for those who can get access to the internet but have previously chosen not to. The impact will be felt among those who still can’t use online services, whether through a prohibitively high cost or a lack of local provision. Here we’ll see a polarizing effect, especially for those already living in or falling under the poverty line.”
As an organization, Capgemini is focused on four key areas to reduce the digital divide and lead digital inclusion:
To find out more about Capgemini’s global CSR program and the digital inclusion initiative, visit the CSR page.
To read a full copy of the report, please click here.
For this research, the Capgemini Research Institute undertook a two-pronged approach to survey over 5,000 respondents across France, Germany, India, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The research took place from December 2019 to February 2020.
The Institute also conducted one-on-one interviews with 26 executives at 22 non-profit organizations, charities, and NGOs working in the digital inclusion space as well as private companies with digital inclusion initiatives in France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Capgemini is a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology and engineering services. The Group is at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud, digital and platforms. Building on its strong 50-year+ heritage and deep industry-specific expertise, Capgemini enables organizations to realize their business ambitions through an array of services from strategy to operations. Capgemini is driven by the conviction that the business value of technology comes from and through people. Today, it is a multicultural company of 270,000 team members in almost 50 countries. With Altran, the Group reported 2019 combined revenues of €17billion.
Visit us at www.capgemini.com. People matter, results count.
About the Capgemini Research Institute
The Capgemini Research Institute is Capgemini’s in-house think-tank on all things digital. The Institute publishes research on the impact of digital technologies on large traditional businesses. The team draws on the worldwide network of Capgemini experts and works closely with academic and technology partners. The Institute has dedicated research centers in India, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was recently ranked #1 in the world for the quality of its research by independent analysts.
Visit us at https://www.capgemini.com/researchinstitute/
 For the purpose of this research, we used each country’s definition of low income or poverty in Europe, the US and India:
 The Capgemini Research Institute surveyed 1,304 people who are currently not online via phone and face-to-face discussions
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