There is no avoiding it anymore. We live in an increasingly digitalised society. As Homo Digitalis, we thrive in a habitat constantly surrounded by digital technologies. We are connected to them 24/7. It’s like electricity. It is here and will never go away.
During the covid crisis, digitalisation allowed us to maintain our social contacts, work and study remotely and even access medical help. Even during today’s energy crisis, digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things can provide energy-efficient solutions. Digitalisation repeatedly plays a key role in solving challenges facing our society today. But at the speed the digital TGV races through our society, there are also those who do not have the means, skills or appetite to get on board.
Yet, we all benefit from everyone boarding this digital TGV. Without a boarding pass, these citizens jeopardise their careers, their (mental) health, their civic engagement, our economy, our labour market and so much more. Today, no less than 40 per cent of our Belgian citizens are at risk of digital exclusion. They end up facing twice the amount of suffering. In addition to digital exclusion, social exclusion threatens. This exclusion is not only reducible to specific social classes or regions.
Digital inclusion: a collective effort
Digital inclusion is therefore a matter of national and societal importance. We must build an inclusive society where digital technologies create connection and value for everyone. We need to work towards this goal on every level. Governments, educational institutions, associations, citizens and even businesses have the power to address this societal challenge. An employer who invests in the digital skills of his employees is investing in both the future of his own company and the entire economy. A government that ensures accessibility to the Internet for everyone ensures a healthier labour market and increased social participation of citizens. An educational institution that meets the digital needs and requirements of tomorrow creates sustainable careers and empowered citizens. Citizens who are digitally aware, use digital technologies to their advantage and support an inclusive society. One thing is certain. We will have to act as one team, and act fast to find practical solutions to avoid digital exclusion. Are you in? Or do you have more questions about digital inclusion? Don’t hesitate to contact Ulrich Petré.