The global pandemic has continued to drive rapid digitalisation, while also revealing digital inequalities resulting from differences among people in their digital skills, competences and usage. The digitalswitzerland Foundation addressed this topic through its Digital Xchange, a series of interactions on “digital divides and digital inclusion”. From expert interviews, Swiss-wide public focus groups and a high-level forum, diverse stakeholders from the private and public sectors, academia, NGOs and civil society organisations came together to discuss and identify ideas and opportunities to tackle the issue.
Learn more about the stakeholder’s different perspectives on digital divides and what can be done to be more digitally inclusive in the synthesis written by the digitalswitzerland Foundation team.
Fears and hopes of the population on digitalisation, Series of public focus group 2022
As part of its Digital Xchange project, the digitalswitzerland Foundation organised in collaboration with some of its partners, a series of Swiss-wide public focus groups. The aim was to offer an open forum for the population to raise questions and discuss the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly advancing digital future. As a result, key fears and hopes were captured.
Overall, people’s mindset is adapting to the evolving digital environment. Generally, many people have a positive view of the new digital technologies and see them as a tool that has the potential to generate value for business and unlock benefits for society.
However, deep fears remain.
Preparing for a digital future
Many of the participants realise that mastering digital tools is becoming a prerequisite for economic, social and cultural integration, and worry that digitalisation can amplify pre-existing socio-economic inequalities. In particular, older generations fear being left behind by failing to use new digital tools.
On this point, everyone agrees that the key answer to “keep up with” and “benefit from” digital technologies is training. There’s an urgent need to develop skills and competences by setting up adequate training for various types of users (i.e., children, teenagers, adult workers, retirees…). Nevertheless, the question remained as to what are the skills needed? How can we train people who are professionally active and/or retired? Who is responsible for providing such training? Many participants raised the importance of having regular support, for example, by providing a space where people can go to get the digital support they need.
The importance of governance
Furthermore, the majority of people were concerned about the grey areas of digital governance: fear of the consequences of a lack of limits, framework, and regulations with regard to fundamental aspects of our lives, such as use of private data, security, mass surveillance, individual freedoms or polarisation of opinions.
A strong consensus arose that the discourse surrounding digitalisation can be too complex and technical, which can generate mistrust and even self-exclusion. As a result, there is a clear aspiration to put the human back at the centre and to strengthen the debate on the human and social aspects of digital transformation. This will enable each of us to benefit from more information and to be better integrated in the associated decision-making processes.
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