Across the wider European region, almost 300 million people live in digital exclusion. We all know someone who is not connected to our information society. Yet, without strong action, this situation is seemingly accepted, since it is not ‘life-threatening’ and doesn’t impact negatively on their life in any immediately noticeable way.
Some may even be happy to be disconnected, and relish the freedom from the modern world that their disjuncture from technology provides for them. In today’s knowledge based society however, digital technologies represent a gateway to economic and social development, and without it their future potential is limited.
A failure to act strongly is a failure to take the problem seriously. These people are missing out on a wide range of life chances, employment opportunities, education choices, economic advantages, and social and community benefits. Accepting that some people will never be able to access technology, and that this is “just the way things are”, is doing these people a great disservice.
It is accepting that they cannot have wider life chances. Accepting that they do not have better employment opportunities or economic advantages. Accepting that their education choices are limited, and that their community is no worse off without their full engagement.
We know, as grassroots organisations at the forefront of digital inclusion, that these kind of outcomes are not inevitable – and to us they are not acceptable either.
Telecentres often work with people who are on the margins of society. While 40% of Europeans still gain none of the benefits related to ICT use, that percentage will grow higher if we include those who are online, but not a confident technology user. They are often the learners in telecentres, and although they don’t register as offline, they still need support to become self‐ sufficient users.
It is important that Telecentres support both groups, those people who are completely new to technology, and those who need support to stay in touch with the ever changing world of technology.
The 40% from the wider Europe who are still disconnected from it become increasingly difficult to reach. Reaching homeless, rurally isolated, migrant, and economically separated people can be very difficult, costly and time‐consuming
Telecentre-Europe aspires to play a prominent role in the development of a Europe-wide movement for change that will help us bring digital opportunity and equity to all European citizens. The network exists to provide the next 292m Europeans with the information skills, motivation and access that they need to benefit from, and contribute to, the knowledge economy.
Our action in forming this network, and the plans that we have for it, make a bold statement. Our message is clear: let’s include everyone, do not allow them to miss out on the benefits, choices, chances, advantages and opportunities that the information society provides, and; do not accept “digital indifference”.
Averaged usage figures indicate that telecentres work directly with at least 25 million digitally excluded citizens per year across the European region. Clearly, telecentres are a significant asset to affect e-Inclusion.
Telecentre-Europe aims at improving the capacities of telecentres throughout Europe. This increases the effectiveness of telecentres to provide citizens expertise in digital technologies, thus improving their opportunities to access to and/or success at the labour market.