What Is Digital Exclusion?

The development of the Internet has revolutionized the way we live, but around the world there are countless individuals who are unable access the power of the Web. Learn about digital exclusion and efforts to bridge the digital divide so that more can benefit from the use of new technologies.

Many Lacking Access

The Internet has long been advertised as the realization of a true digital democracy, an online environment that all can access to inform themselves and enhance their lives. Unfortunately, however, many people are currently cut off from this idealistic vision. A large segment of the population in the United States and around the world cannot utilize the Web.

Digital exclusion can be the result of a variety of factors. Many households, for instance, lack the economic means to have a computer in the home, and public resources may also be unavailable. In some instances, geographic location makes it impossible for people to access the Internet. Technology illiteracy is another significant factor, a challenge that is more commonly found among minorities, distressed socioeconomic populations, seniors and women. Using the Web can also be difficult for those with disabilities, who may require specialized technology for access.

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Important Initiatives Underway

In the U.S and around the globe, there are many organizations working to make technology available to those who are currently unable to enjoy its benefits. For instance, digital inclusion (or e-inclusion) initiatives are bringing more computers to schools and community centers in low-income neighborhoods. Increasing broadband service to rural areas has also been a significant focus of such groups. And education programs are targeting women, minorities, seniors and other under-served populations.

For those with disabilities, accessing technology can be especially difficult. This is true because access often isn't just a matter of putting computers into the hands of people or teaching them how to use devices. Assistive technologies may be required to make computers usable to those with physical disabilities. The Center for Accessible Technology, located on the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, California, is an example of an organization working to open up opportunities for the disabled by providing access to assistive technologies and training programs.

A Global Priority

Digital exclusion can have serious and long-lasting effects not only on individuals, but also on corporations, social organizations and government agencies. The Digital Inclusion Forum is a national resource center that is addressing the technological divide. The group is a passionate advocate for bringing digital resources to all citizens - both for the sake of individuals and for the economic efficiencies they can provide. For instance, people who are empowered to use technology to access public services need not visit government agencies, potentially reducing staffing needs.

Efforts to reduce digital exclusion are not only in practice in the United States. The European Union has been a leader in opening up new technologies to those from traditionally under-served populations. The governing body works closely with nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop technologies that increase access to the Internet and provide education opportunities that improve accessibility. The goal: To empower individuals while also strengthening the economic status of nations and organizations.

Get more information on the digital divide and efforts to close the gap.

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