5 August 2003
General steps to reduce broader social divisions could help to bridge the 'digital divide' as much as improving public access to the internet, according to a new report that is influencing policy-making at European level.
The study, produced by UK-based SustainIT for the European Commission, highlights that inequalities in access to ICT are created through a range of factors, including age, gender, income, race, employment status, education and geography, reflecting areas of wider social exclusion.
Also researchers argue that the digital divide is dynamic, creating, for groups whose use of ICT is limited, new forms of exclusion as new applications and technologies come into play. Also, for some groups it is worsening - either relatively, or in a few cases, absolutely. In particular, poorer people in the UK, who tend to have more contact with government services than normal, could face a growing disadvantage as eGovernment gathers pace and more services migrate to an online platform.
Rather than looking to ICT-specific measures - such as setting up UK Online centres - actions to address the digital divide should focus on dealing with the inherent social problems, as well as creating "good reasons" for people to want to use technology.
Copies of the report are available from www.SustainIT.org
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