Digital Inclusion Index

02 March 2021

A large part of the population is unable to use digital tools. Either because they don’t have an internet connection, the necessary skills or the devices to actively participate in the digital society. These people are at risk of digital exclusion which has dramatic consequences in a rapidly digitising world. Studies show that as many as four out of ten Belgians are at risk of digital exclusion. To avoid this, DNS Belgium is working on the development of a Digital Inclusion Index.

Digital must be inclusive

According to DNS Belgium, digitising is an important part of corporate sustainability, provided that digital is also inclusive. That is why we set up initiatives such as . Inclusiveness starts with access to the internet for us, which is about devices and connection. Once those two elements are in place, we need to provide support and give people the chance to develop digital skills. That's the only way we can ensure everyone is included.

The Digital Inclusion Ecosystem is an initiative of BNP Paribas Fortis that brings together stakeholders from the world of business, social organisations and government to make our society digitally inclusive. The ecosystem, in which DNS Belgium wants to play an important role, hopes to create awareness about digital inclusion, build a network of ambassadors and provide ready-made solutions that have a positive impact on e-inclusion in the short and long term. One such solution is a Digital Inclusion Index.

Digital inclusion standard

The Digital Inclusion Index aims to offer companies a tool to measure and improve the digital inclusiveness of their services," explains Arnaud Recko, our sustainability coordinator. Great initiatives such as Wablieft and Anysurfer contribute to digital inclusion by, respectively, seeking plain language on the internet and websites that are accessible to people with disabilities. However, there is a lack of clearly defined standards or established criteria to help companies assess the digital inclusiveness of their services. There is no standard for this currently.

DNS Belgium's Digital Inclusion Index aims to do something about this.

Many digital services provided by companies and governments are still too complex today.

Often still too complex

Many digital services provided by companies and governments are still too complex today. To log in to a secure environment, for example, you are assumed to use the itsme app or have an eID reader. Once you have securely logged in with a password and token, you are directed from one subsite to another. Enter your details here, download your documents there, pay with your bank app for which you need the infamous digipass... Recognisable and time-consuming, no?

True, for many people it's child's play. But for every three people using it, one person experiences great difficulties and another simply does not have the means. 1 in 10 families in Belgium does not have an internet connection. And some people do have the tools, but make a deliberate choice not to use them because it causes them stress. Technology is evolving so fast that they cannot keep up.

There is a real risk that such people will give up. And once that happens, they will not be able to catch up in a rapidly digitising society.

Coalition of the willing

“Digital services can often be improved, and that is the idea behind the Digital Inclusion Index. Using the index as a starting point, companies are able to draw up guidelines for product developers, UX designers, marketers, etc. to make digital services and tools accessible to everyone”, says Recko. It does not end there though. Based on the index, we want to develop a certification label for companies that meet the standards, similar to the AnySurfer label. Ideally, the index would become an industry standard . And why not present an annual award to companies that achieve high digital inclusion scores to create even more awareness among the general public'.

There is no lack of ambitious plans. For now, everything is still in the conceptual phase. Within the ecosystem that BNP Paribas developed, DNS Belgium now wants to develop the ideas with a coalition of the willing. To be continued, no doubt...

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.