In a society that is digitizing more and more, the gap is growing between the people who have access to digital technologies and those who remain excluded from them. The Alliantie Digitaal Samenleven, NLdigital, municipalities, the province of Groningen, KPN, VodafoneZiggo and Freedom Internet are today launching a trial to reduce this growing digital divide. With the Digital Participation Package, they provide financially vulnerable households with internet, a device and guidance. The pilot will start in Utrecht and Westerkwartier.
3% of Dutch households do not have a fixed internet connection at home, 11% do not have a properly functioning device and almost 23% experience challenges participating in the digital world. Research shows that there is a widening gap between people who are connected to digital technology and those who are insufficiently able to do so: the digital divide. To bridge this divide, the aim of the pilot is to gain a better understanding of underlying problems and solutions.
The pilot specifically targets households that are financially vulnerable and – in the case of the municipality of Utrecht – do not have a fixed internet subscription at home. The Digital Participation Package provides participants with a laptop or tablet, an internet connection (at an adjusted rate) and support nearby in order to learn skills.
"Whether it’s education, healthcare or banking, digitisation is playing an ever-greater role in our daily lives. It is therefore essential that everyone in the Netherlands can participate digitally," says Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO VodafoneZiggo. "With this pilot, telecom providers, municipalities and civil society organisations are joining forces to explore how the Digital Participation Package – a combination of internet, device and supports – can improve participation in the digital world for everyone."
The approach to the pilot differs per municipality. Westerkwartier is testing the package at district level and Utrecht is opting for broader recruitment through various civil society organisations. The options for a pilot are being explored with Amsterdam as well. The Centre for Digital Inclusion at the University of Twente will monitor and interpret the effects and results of the different approaches. Together, the participating municipalities are inviting a total of 250 households to participate based on their own local minimum-income schemes.
Elske Lagard, 75, is participating in the pilot in the municipality of Utrecht. "I have always been afraid of making mistakes online and often doubt what to do with incoming messages. I now depend on my daughter, especially when it comes to things like telephone banking or redeeming a gift voucher. That said, I believe that you’re never too old to learn. With this Digital Participation Package, I hope to be more confident and agile in a year's time, so that I can participate independently in the digital society."
Once the pilot has been launched, other municipalities and companies in the telecoms sector will be invited to join the initiative as well. The pilot will run for a year. Afterwards, all participating parties will evaluate the pilot and see whether the Digital Participation Package does indeed increase access to the digital world and what is needed to expand it to several municipalities.
More information about the Digital Participation Package?