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Report of the Digital Government Review

Widening inequality: the dangers of digital

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Not only can digital services fail to engage many of the most excluded when they are considered outside of the social context; we must also go further and recognize that, by further benefitting those who are already digitally included, we risk widening inequality in the country.

As we have already noted, those without basic digital skills are likely to include those people who interact with government the most and those who are already excluded. Fully 80% of government interactions are with the poorest 25% of society – a statistic that must always be considered alongside the 21% of the population lacking online skills.

Voluntary sector organisations and some local authorities are making great strides in addressing the challenges. But we need to go much further. To ensure that we include this group we recommend changes to current policy in the following four areas.

  • Prioritisation
  • Skills
  • Social Infrastructure
  • Access

With the exception of one item, skills, we recommend that all funding come from existing digital spend. This is not a question of wishing funds into existence at a time of austerity. Rather, it is a rational reprioritization of effort to create a fairer society.

“Unless fundamental action is taken, the digital divide risks becoming an ever greater digital gulf as the distance increases between those who are online and those who remain firmly anchored in the offline world.” – Civil Society Organisation

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