There is an urgent need to tackle the sharp digital divide between the world’s online and offline populations, according to the latest research from the Capgemini Research Institute, and intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its latest report, launched today, highlights that the responsibility for addressing digital exclusion lies jointly with public and private organizations, who must come together to ensure that access to essential services isn’t denied to the digitally marginalized.
“The Great Digital Divide: Why bringing the digitally excluded online should be a global priority” reveals that even before the pandemic hit, 69% of people without online access were living in poverty and that 48% of the offline population wanted access to the internet – trends that will have intensified due to worldwide events over recent months.
The report highlights that even without the global pandemic the digital divide intersects age, income and experience. Nearly 40% of offline people living in poverty have never used the internet because of its cost, and the age group with the highest proportion offline in the sample is those between 18 and 36 years old (43%). Complexity of using the internet (36%) and a perceived “lack of interest” stemming from fear (38%) was also cited by certain segments of the offline population. These reasons mean that people are unable to access public services such as critical healthcare information as governments increasingly move to online resources.
COVID-19 has demanded a global change in how people live, work and socialize; as unemployment soars and people isolate from their communities, a basic level of digital inclusion has become almost universally vital. Conducted just prior to the outbreak, the research findings are now even more pertinent in the current context – with the increasing reliance on digital services exacerbating what was already a desperate situation for the offline population.