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40% of Belgians have ‘weak’ digital skills
According to the King Baudouin Foundations’ Digital Inclusion Barometer, four in 10 Belgians have weak digital skills and a full 55% do not carry out administrative tasks, such as banking, online. The coronavirus crisis has “made it crystal clear just how crucial digital inclusion is,” said the organisation in a statement.
It is the first time the foundation has released the Digital Inclusion Barometer, based on research carried out by VUB and UCLouvain. “The barometer offers an overview of digital inequality in Belgium,” said the organisation. “Digital evolutions offer many opportunities, but they also risk marginalising people who are not able to take part in these evolutions. These people are very vulnerable in a world that is becoming more and more digital.”
The barometer found that on in three low-income households to not have an internet connection. While 40% of Belgians have weak digital skills, this figure rises to 75% in household with low incomes or low levels of education.
The foundation identifies three broad areas of inequality when it comes to the digital revolution. The first is inequality in access to digital technologies. “When compared with neighbouring countries, Belgium has the deepest divisions when it comes to access to the internet,” says the foundation. “Among households with lower incomes – less than €1,200 per month – 29% have no internet connection. That’s higher than Germany at 28%, France at 21%, Luxembourg at 7% and the Netherlands at 4%.”
The second is inequality in digital skills. Of the 40% of Belgians who have weak digital skills, 8% do not use the internet at all. “There is also the demand that digital skills have to be constantly kept up-to-date, which is an additional challenge.”
Finally, both of these lend to the third digital inequality among citizens: The use of essential services. While 85% of Belgians use the internet daily for one thing or another, more than half of all people in households with a low-income or low level of education have never used the internet for services such as e-banking “even though society demands it”.
The foundation points out that while people who cannot afford internet access and older generations are most at risk of missing out on essential services, other groups are also affected. This can be seen among people with low-level reading skills, for instance, regardless of income.
The barometer is part of the foundation’s larger digital inclusion programme, which includes awareness campaigns, funding for organisation that take the issue into consideration on their call for projects and the platform 123digit.be, which trains social workers and other professionals to help people with a lack of digital skills.
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