This survey by the Social Exclusion Unit was designed to assess how the innovative use of Information and Communication Technologies can be used to promote equality of opportunity and improve service delivery and outcomes for society’s most disadvantaged groups as well as those who live in deprived areas. It found that the majority of respondents (77%) agreed that current trends in ICT are likely to widen the digital divide and increase levels of inequality faced by socially excluded groups. Despite this view, one in five respondents felt that there are currently initiatives in place that aim to address the digital divide through, for example, providing socially excluded groups with ICT training.The main factors for the digital divide are the costs of ICT equipment, lack of access to ICT, lack of training in the use of technology and market issues such as the tendency for ICT developers to focus more on more profitable mainstream markets than disadvantaged groups.
The internet is seen as providing access to an increasing number of services, such as service information, online training, and hosting online forums. People with few or no qualifications and unemployed people are seen as key audiences for development in this area. Mobile technologies, particularly phones, are also commonly used to deliver services to disadvantaged groups, largely due to their relative low cost, and widespread use, particularly among younger people.
The Unit will publish an action plan from this project in Autumn 2005, which will reflect the findings of the consultative work.
The survey findings are available at: http://www.socialexclusion.gov.uk/