2 March 2023 • Cyber risks
Grandpas or grandmas who fall for spam emails from Nigerian princes or seniors who blindly state their PIN code in an email. Is that your reality of digital inequality? Unfortunately, digital inequality is a broader problem than the above common examples. In this article, we take a closer look at this problem and look at solutions.
What is Digital Inequality?
Digital inequality is what happens when there is no digital inclusion. Within our society, inclusion is an important concept, where everyone, regardless of their background or differences, is included and accepted in society. Yet there are population groups – also here in the Netherlands – that cannot keep up with the current pace of digitization. As a result of which, a lot goes wrong. More and more things can only be arranged online.
Research from the University of Twente has shown that a lack of good help with going online, the right equipment, existing digital skills and insufficient suitable ways to access the internet, are reasons why the digital divide is quite large.
The consequences of digital inequality are significant. Vulnerable groups, such as the low-skilled and people with a lower income, are more likely to fall victim to online fraud and encounter misinformation and negative texts more quickly. In addition, they miss out on the benefits of being digitally connected: for example, the internet offers the opportunity to make contact with friends and family, and it is possible to work remotely.
The socio-economic divide
Several factors play a role in the emergence of digital inequality. For example, not every household has access to the internet. This can be a result of culture or religion, but also a lower income. Children in particular often miss the boat when it comes to learning digital skills. Research shows that four factors are important for digital inclusion:
- Positive drivers: Having a positive opinion about internet use plays an important role in reducing inequality.
- Good material: Having a good internet connection and a good device (laptop, computer or mobile) plays a major role.
- Digital skills: Existing digital skills indicate to what extent someone can save themselves online. When someone is digitally skilled, the chance of digital inequality is much smaller.
- Sufficient use: the extent to which the Internet is used and in what way is also an important indication of possible inequality.
These four factors can be worked on to reduce the existing socio-economic gap. And that is badly needed because digital inequality only increases this gap: it is a vicious circle that continues to widen the gap between people and technology and between people and society.
Solutions for digital inequality
To combat digital inequality, education and training are super important. We have to take into account how certain groups think about the internet and respond to it. A good approach is key! During this training, we can discuss both theory and practice. For example, we can talk about what the internet means for society and practice the basics of digital skills step by step. If we emphasize the various benefits of digital technologies for each group of users – such as finding a job more easily or quickly staying in touch with distant relatives – then we can improve the image of the Internet. This is important to motivate users to become more actively involved with digital technology.
Improving access to the internet is also important in this respect. Think of placing computers with internet access in community centres and libraries and lending laptops to young people from poorer households.
It is also important that attention is paid throughout the Netherlands to how the digital world plays a role, including in healthcare. The insight that digitizing everything is not easier and more convenient for everyone can prevent a lot of inequality in advance. There is still a lot to be gained by developing broad programs aimed at improving digital inclusion.
Guardey recognizes the challenge ahead. The gap between people and technology must be reduced to allow everyone in society to participate in the online world. We are happy to contribute to solving this challenge through easy and affordable cybersecurity software. It is time to balance digital society and physical society. Bring balance back to your company and start now with a free 14-day Guardey trial.