A few takeaways from our presentation at the Digital Inclusion Policy and Research conference 2021

The Digital Inclusion Policy and Research conference 2021, organized by Prof. Simon Yates and Dr. Elinor Carmi, has drawn upon over two decades of research, policy, and practice.  The primary aim of this conference was to link up international policy efforts to address digital inequalities, access and skills with the outcomes of recent research from around the globe. The conference was a mix of invited presentations from policy and research colleagues, along with open paper sessions.

Maria Laura Ruiu, Felice Addeo and I, in a research paper titled “Internet as a tool of social inclusivity”, attempted to shed light onto the gradual process of digital inclusion.

Here a few takeaways from our presentation.

Our analysis shows the different ways the Internet is used by individuals to increase their “social inclusion” and how, despite their access to the Internet, those people at risk of social exclusion are more likely to lack the digital experience necessary to fully exploit the possibilities the Internet can offer.

By contrast, those who tend to obtain more benefits from the use of the Internet are, on average, young, well-educated and with a higher income, thus reinforcing their already privileged social positions.

Different levels of digital inclusion are related to socioeconomic and sociodemographic features, namely gender, age, income, education and occupation.

Our data contributes to reinforcing the idea that offline social structures and practices influence individuals’ ability to use digital technologies as an empowering tool of social inclusion.

Socially disadvantaged citizens, even when they access to the Internet, tend to not fully exploit the benefits offered by it, missing the opportunity to use the Internet as a tool of social inclusivity.

As a vicious circle, those already (socially) marginalized miss the opportunity to use the Internet as a tool of social inclusivity, thus being further marginalized.

The results of this research might help policy makers to identify where they should intervene, which areas need more attention and which lack of digital competences need to be mitigated.

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