The digitisation of society is occurring at breakneck speed. Possessing a digital basic has become as essential as reading and writing. This year's Literacy Week - from 7 to 11 September 2020 - focuses on an inclusive e-policy to ensure that nobody falls by the digital wayside.
Making appointments online, videoconferencing, internet banking, digital homework, etc. Nobody seems able to escape digitisation nowadays. With the coronavirus on our heels, the digitisation of society has gone up a notch. Although in some respects this is a logical, practical and even sustainable development, many Belgians struggle with the rapid digitisation. Ten percent of Belgians between the ages of 16 and 74 have never used the internet.
39 percent of the population lacks the basic skills to use the internet efficiently, thus leaving them on the digital sidelines. They are at risk of social exclusion. Fortunately, several Flemish organisations have joined forces for an inclusive e-policy and through the 2020 Literacy Week want to highlight the importance of e-inclusion. By doing so, they aim to eliminate digital exclusion, strengthen the population's computer skills and, above all, highlight any digital barriers. In this way, they hope to inform the general public, specific target groups, as well as politicians, raise awareness and encourage them to take action to do something about the problem.
Digital inclusion barometer
To obtain a better overview of the cause and effect of digital inequality in Belgium, the King Baudouin foundation published the first Digital Inclusion Barometer. Digital exclusion can occur in three ways, each of which involves different forms of inequality.
- Inequality in terms of access to digital technologies. 29% of Belgians with a low income do not have an internet connection at home, compared to 1% of households with a high income.
- Inequality in terms of digital skills. Nearly four out of ten Belgians have no or weak digital skills. The lower the income and level of education, the higher the risk of digital exclusion.
- Inequality in terms of the use of essential services. Although online services are becoming the rule rather than the exception, more than half of people with a low level of education and low income have never performed online administrative transactions.
Together with Close The Gap, DNS Belgium established non-profit organisation DigitalForYouth.be. Under the banner of PC Solidarity, the aim is to offer youngsters secure and easy access to ICT and to teach them digital skills. DigitalForYouth.be does this by collecting used laptops and refurbishing them, and then donating them to youngsters who need them the most.
The lockdown highlighted the importance of computers and the internet for youngsters at school even more. A computer is of course indispensable for online lessons or homework. Students who did not have a PC or laptop at home were at risk of being at a huge learning disadvantage. This is why Digital for Youth launched a massive campaign to collect company laptops.
In the spring of 2020, it managed to collect no less than 15,000 laptops, 12,000 of which could be refurbished. They were distributed to youngsters who did not have a laptop at home. DNS Belgium will try to collect and refurbish an additional 5,000 laptops in the coming months together with Digital For Youth.
DNS Belgium has long been committed to making the internet accessible to everyone. Not only to vulnerable youngsters. The internet can also be a valuable tool for personal growth and communication for people with a disability. Their need for easily accessible and well-organised websites is huge.
As part of DNS Belgium's sustainability objectives, we made the necessary effort to build an accessible website that was awarded the AnySurfer label. AnySurfer is a Belgian quality label for websites that are accessible to the visually impaired, the blind, the colour-blind, the elderly and people with a disability, etc. They are also easy to consult on small screens and in any web browser .
DNS Belgium trains its people to keep the website accessible, both in terms of content and technology, to the computer-illiterate and people with a disability. We provide a page with an accessibility statement to inform our surfers of the measures we take in this respect and of the limitations that our website still has in terms of accessibility.
Wablieft? Plain language
DNS Belgium does its best to communicate in plain language to reach the broadest group of the population as possible and to make sure they understand the message. Think, for example, of adults with weak reading and writing skills or non-Dutch speakers who have just started learning Dutch.
For this we follow the guidelines of Wablieft, the centre for plain language. They provide advice to anyone who wants to learn to write in plain language. A Wablieft course teaches our people to 'think in terms of accessibility '.