Our society is rapidly developing into a digital society. In this kind of world, a basic digital knowledge is just as essential as being able to read and write. Unfortunately, many Belgians are at risk of missing the digitisation boat because they do not have the necessary skills.
Digitisation brings simplification, but it also excludes certain people. This is shown by figures from Eurostat, the European Statistical Office, from 2018. Almost 40 percent of the Belgian population has no or weak digital skills and is at risk of digital exclusion. 1 Belgian out of 10 fears for his/her job if he/she can't keep up with digitisation.
No less than 12 percent of the population has no computer skills and does not use the internet. This mostly concerns the over-65s, but not just them. Other vulnerable groups, according to Eurostat figures, are people with a low income and the over-55 age group with a limited level of education.
13 percent of Belgians do not have access to the internet at home, whereas more and more government services and banking transactions are done online. This means that people without internet access are excluded from important services. These percentages are fairly similar for Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia, despite large differences in, for example, poverty figures between the three regions. This shows that digital exclusion is a complex phenomenon that affects a diverse group of people.
Time for action
60 percent of Belgians would like to follow internet and computer courses to be better informed and to keep up with the latest developments. Close The Gap and DNS Belgium felt it was high time for action and together founded PC Solidarity.
PC Solidarity, in collaboration with the King Baudouin Foundation, provides ICT support to Belgian associations that help young people under the age of 25, regardless of their origin, nationality, beliefs, health, residence status, education or whatever else, to develop their digital skills. These can be organisations:
- in special youth care,
- of, and for, people living in poverty,
- for, and by, refugees,
- active in healthcare,
- which train or guide young people to the labour market.
PC Solidarity does this mainly by providing ICT equipment to these organisations and relies on the strategic support of partners and donors for this. The equipment is allocated through calls for projects.