Covid-19 lockdowns have seen so much of how we live, work and play move online. There has been a dramatic shift to digital and this is likely to grow in importance in the years to come. However, this NESC report, Digital Inclusion in Ireland: Connectivity, Devices & Skills shows that that there are groups who remain poorly engaged with digital technologies. In particular, it highlights those who are older, have lower levels of education, lower incomes, and live in rural areas; as well as smaller businesses and farms.
The report argues that a digital inclusion strategy would help address the ‘digital’ needs of people in these key groups. Doing so would build on Ireland’s large investment in broadband connectivity. It would also help companies, particularly micro-businesses, compete effectively with other small open economies. And critically in the years to come it could be a key means of combatting social exclusion.
The report highlights that there are several State policies focused on digital technologies. There are also a range of state agency, business and community programmes. There is a need to co-ordinate across these policies and programmes if digital inclusion is to improve. The report recommends a stand-alone digital inclusion strategy should be developed. It also recommends a comprehensive framework for digital skills progression and certification. It highlights the need for targeted supports for key groups, including those with low incomes, and smaller businesses and farms. Finally, it argues that enhanced guidance is needed to develop digital public services which are easily accessed by all, and assisted-digital public services for the groups who will continue to face difficulties going online.
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