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What Is Digital Inclusion?

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The National Digital Inclusion Coalition (NDIA) defines Digital Inclusion as:

[T]he activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

This includes 5 elements:

1) Affordable, robust broadband internet service
2) Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user
3) Access to digital literacy training
4) Quality technical support; and
5) Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration

Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances. Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.

Quick Definitions

Digital Divide

Modified Definition From Merriam-Webster

The economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have (a) digital devices; (b) easy and regular online access; and (c) the requisite skills and resources to take full advantage of elements (a) and (b) — and those who do not.

Digital Equity

Definition Via: National Digital Inclusion Alliance

Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.  Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

Digital Literacy

Definition Via: American Library Association

The ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.

Why Does It Matter?

In a modern world, to do just about anything — from completing school work, to applying for government services, to speaking friends and family — one needs access to an internet-connected digital device, and the skills to use it.

Yet, for one reason or another, large proportions of our communities find the benefits of technology inaccessible. Either the cost of access is too high (broadband internet connection in the home; cost of devices), or the learning curve for usage seems too steep.

What Does Digital Inclusion Affect?

  • Media Literacy — What is true? What is not true? What is technically true, but misleading? How can you tell? Given the ubiquity of online news and pseudo-news, digital literacy plays an important role in civic engagement, and everyday decision making.
  • School Work Roughly 70% (in 2015) of American teachers reported assigning homework that required broadband access. Public Libraries, though an incredibly important resource in the fight for digital equity, are not a sufficient solution to bridge the digital divide. The very fact that libraries are (1) not open 24/7 or (2) necessarily located near to a student’s home, introduces friction into the completion of schoolwork.
  • Health/Insurance — Enrolling in healthcare (e.g.; paying hospital bills; information on nutrition or medical conditions; apps to find less expensive prescriptions; websites for finding in-network healthcare providers — ease of accessing more affordable healthcare is massively improved by the tenets of a digitally inclusive community
  • Transportation — From purchasing public transit tickets on-the-go, to receiving notifications about transit delays, to using ride share apps like Lyft or Uber, the ability to navigate apps and the necessary devices and infrastructure to do it can often save time and/or money in a person’s commute.
  • Buying Power/Reviews — The advent and ubiquity of the online marketplace allows individuals to price-compare, and check the quality of products and services before making purchasing decisions. The ability to make informed decisions becomes particularly important for big-ticket purchases (home appliances, cars, insurance, etc.)
  • Basically Everything — The world is continuing to digitize. Those who either cannot access innovations or are not considered in the design phase of a product will not reap the same benefits of technological progress.

What Can Be Done?

By raising awareness of these issues in the collective conscious, and addressing hurdles to inclusion for our neighbors, we can build stronger and more equitable communities.

Addressing Hurdles to Digital Inclusion:

  • Digital Literacy Classes – Relevant, high-quality digital training designed specifically for a community — delivered at the appropriate speed, difficulty level and frequency
  • Affordable Devices – Resources to find low-cost, and when needed, refurbished devices that are suited for the needs of the end user
  • Affordable Internet Connections – The know-how to compare and contrast internet plans, resources notifying applicable populations of discounted service plans , hotspot loans, etc
  • Tech Support – When things break or don’t go as planned, having the necessary support in place to fix the issue, or recommend next steps.
  • Appropriate and Engaging Content and Tools – When designing technologies, applications, documents, etc., take into account the needs of all end users. For example, UX/UI (user experience, user interface) may need to change ensure individuals with vision issues, or mobility issues are also able to take advantage of the technology.

Learn About Digital Inclusion in NJ.