Expanding the view of digital inclusion

Digitization is already a phenomenon that we have incorporated into our political, economic and social systems. The fact that everything is going to happen through the digital sphere is something we have  come to assume , but what about those challenges that we continue to  face as a society? Inequality, poverty, racism or gender violence are challenges that are still pending resolution and that not only persist in the digital sphere, but also take on new and dangerous forms.

What does the digital inclusion of a migrant person mean? How is it approached from the Roma community? How can homeless people participate in the possibilities that digital technologies offer them? The enjoyment of the internet and all its potentialities must be approached from an inclusive perspective, for all  those  who inhabit the city so as not to widen the inequalities of the system.

Privileges and the digital gap

Faced with  an awareness of this need,  Espai Societat Oberta  has promoted the act “Expanding the view of digital inclusion“, a debate in which different voices debated this need and its possible solutions. The participants of the debate were Daybelyn Juares, coordinator of the Migrant and Diverse Women Association, Adrià Cuenca from M4Social-Taula del Tercer Sector, and Pedro Aguilera from the Federation of Gypsy Associations of Catalonia (FAGIC) participated in the table. The meeting was moderated by Liliana Arroyo, PhD in Sociology and researcher at the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation.

“The accelerated digitization of the pandemic has led privileged people to turn our houses into offices”… Arroyo mentioned at the beginning. We have to understand that digitization is not fair and we must take into account existing inequalities in order to offer concrete solutions in this regard “.

The digital gap is a reality with a great impact and affects two levels. It can be synonymous with lack of access to digital resources but also the ability to do so. It is very likely that people who do not have regular access to online resources feel frustration at not being able to enjoy all its possibilities. In this way, Adrià Cuenca highlighted the importance of addressing the issue of digital inclusion in a global way, which requires above all to promote the development of digital skills in all audiences.

In addition, Cuenca made reference to the report The Digital Gap in people attended by social entities recently published by M4Social. “20% of the population cannot access the Internet whenever they want, and 20% do not have a computer at home,” he recalls. “If we want a participatory society, we have to build it collectively between administrations, companies, organizations and civil society,” he added.

Steps towards inclusion

One of the most affected groups by the digital gap are migrant women. Many women support their families in their countries of origin and, to maintain contact and bond, mastery of digital tools is essential. The Migrant and Diverse Women Association, coordinated by Daybelyn Juares, offers digital literacy workshops where you learn to use different applications. The learning process is often linked to a process of autonomy and personal empowerment;  and the impact is not only with them but it can help reconfigure family ties with their children who are in the countries of origin. As well as knowing how to move around the city alone allows  a person to have more job options and even start participating in political actions such as # 8M or #RegularizaciónYa.

Juares highlighted the need for these workshops to take place during the weekend, since many are internal workers and do not have free time during the week. “Many women do not know the territory well and would get lost when they had a job interview, a fact that made them arrive late or did not get a job. With a good knowledge of the tool, they can now find their bearings better and arrive on time”, commented Juares. The association does an important job empowering women through digital tools and, as Juares assured, they are “small firm steps towards inclusion.”

The digital gap and the Roma community

When we speak of inclusion, we also refer to excluded groups, such as the Roma community. Using a powerful metaphor about the case of a fictitious family, Pedro Aguilera from the Federation of Roma Associations of Catalunya (FAGIC) introduced four key elements to understand the digital divide:

  1. The access gap
  2. The knowledge gap
  3. The usage gap
  4. The motivation gap

Often times, frustration and a feeling of helplessness in the face of a digital scenario, the lack of material conditions to access the equipment necessary for virtualization (smartphones, a computer, a tablet …) generate a feeling of remoteness for a part of the population that already felt “out” for a long time. For Aguilera, empowerment, positive mentoring and the promotion of a shared strategy between private companies, administrations and organizations is key to achieving full inclusion.

Ideas for the future

Some of the proposals of the organizations that emerged during the conference were:

  1. Make digital inclusion real through a sum of efforts of the different parties (Pedro Aguilera),
  2. The administration should offer training on weekends and at more reconcilable hours for citizens (Daybelyn Juares),
  3. The recognition of the Right to the Internet as a fundamental right from which to build legislative obligations (Adrià Cuenca).

The debate covered some of the most salient topics of the conversation on digital inclusion, but there is still much work to be done in this direction. We will continue working towards it  and we look forward to welcoming you at the next next Espai meeting!

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