Abstracts: April 9th, 2008

This report from Communities and Local Government investigates how councils are using e-government to respond to the needs of the socially excluded and in doing so contribute to the development of a more inclusive society. It highlights that councils have a major strategic enabling role in promoting e-government as an important vehicle for tackling social exclusion.

This strategic role involves taking the lead in collaborative working with other partners including local communities. It is concerned with co-ordinating and developing local policy planning on ICT and social inclusion through community strategies and local strategic partnerships. It is also about helping to develop and deliver ICT projects and schemes that make a positive difference to socially excluded groups and communities.

ICT can contribute to social inclusion, but potentially there is a risk that it may reinforce social exclusion. For example, the quality of life for frail older people can be enhanced through telecare, ie bringing health and social care to users in their own home through ICT. But over 80 per cent of people in the 65+ age group in the first quarter of 2006 have never used the Internet, even though there have been many targeted ‘silver surfer’ projects aimed at raising awareness and usage of ICT among older people.

The digital divide is not digital; it’s the social and economic divide which is reinforced by technologies that exacerbate the potential to exclude people. In order to tackle the digital divide, councils and their partners should ensure that their local government champions are aware of the changing nature of the digital divideand its relationship to social exclusion and they should ‘proof’ ICT projects and policies so that they do not directly or indirectly reinforce existing patterns of social exclusion.

The report is available from Communities. http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/724749