Lending A Hand
Please try to remember how many times your folks, grandpas, or aunts, have asked you, for your help in order to do something online. See?! You can’t! It is impossible to remember how many times they have asked you how to transfer files, find where their photos are stored, or, and that is the great part, use an online, public authority service. From booking an appointment, and filling-in an application, to issuing a permit, and paying taxes online. And let us be honest, it makes perfect sense, as they were not born in the Matrix, as we did. Tetris was probably considered a miracle back then – it was, Tetris rules – whereas now, from a very young age, technology and Internet have pretty much become the second nature, of our multi-dimensional existence. Everything has gone digital, to the point that if for a reason the internet was to stop, the whole world would halt, and so would our thirsty for reassurance, megalomania-driven, egocentric, social media profiles; in an instant. So, as mentioned, the whole thing makes perfect sense. And if you have built the required patience – and you should have, it’s your folks we are talking about here! – explaining technology and the Internet to people not familiar with it, is also kind of sweet too.
Yes, it is true, if you had a penny for every time you’ve helped your folks out with “THE INTERNET”, and then another one for all the times that you will in the future, you would probably not have to go to work tomorrow, or the day after; let’s just say that you’d be doing good financially. But, and that is a big one, you will not be around every time people need to do something online. Plus, not only all services are going digital, but soon, that shall be the only way to be carried out. And the most important of them all: the benefits that a person using e-government services enjoys, makes their life, much, much easier. Time is money honey, and people familiar with e-services, have more of both.
Numbers Have A Voice
Considering these points, it is not peculiar that numbers speak of Europeans not being comfortable with technology in general, and specifically e-government services, which is our main focus with DigEqual. And we are not just talking of some numbers here; we are not talking about random, shady numbers, that would like to fool us, and misguide us, with lies, and monkey business, make us pay 10 to get 1; we are talking about decent folks here guys, the kind that is to be trusted, and wants to see things move forward. So, the numbers have spoken, not from the back of their minds. They speak with proof. According to “EC – 2020”, approximately 88% of adults in the EU go online, not even half of them however use the Internet, in order to interact with public authorities and online services. On top of that, and a bit more worrying to hear, is the fact that striking figures on the new “EU Digital Action Plan”, show that 39% of adult educators have insufficient digital skills, and do not have adequate pedagogical skills in defining new strategies regarding e-government, as an educational subject. The mixture is completed with a fact, that is not to joke with. Examining the findings of the “UN – 2018”, it seems that women, migrants, as well as low-skilled and low-educated adults, portray limited usage of e-government services. The answers have to be pompous, imposing, as the questions go beyond the “how many”, and touch certain social groups.
Divides in our society often remind us of the Hydra, whose heads Hercules would severe with his sword, just to surprisingly witness two more, coming out of where the previous one stood, a moment ago. Frustrating the damn thing, isn’t it? To see them multiply, dividing the problem into more and more; but hey, it is what it is, for now at least. Until we, as Hercules did, light the fire that will cauterize the roots.
In the case we are examining, on the digital world that is, a rather unfortunate phenomenon is observed. Digital Divide is the name, and it is a real, authentic divide, as all the others, with different levels and everything. Three levels in particular, each with different causes, results, and effects.
The 1st level
The first level of Digital Divide describes the lack of a connection to the Internet or the needed equipment to do so. You might think, c’mon who does not have an internet connection and at least a smartphone in 2020’s Europe? And up to a point you could be correct, bear in mind though that, indeed there are many that don’t.
The 2nd level
The 2nd level kind of clears things out, or complicate them a bit more, depending on your perception of things. It goes beyond the ownership of a computer or a smartphone, or an internet connection, and focuses on the different levels of online skills, user’s trust towards the e-services, and the general know-how. A rather important look, as users might have the thing, but not be confident enough to use it.
The 3rd level
Things get a bit more serious with the 3rd level of Digital Divide. The one that does not waste time with details such as devices, internet connection, or skills. The 3rd level, is connected to the benefits that users of digital services enjoy in real life, compared to those who avoid using them. Better time and money management, as well as an organized registry of documents and files, just to name a few. For instance, a citizen who needs specific documents for an application, would need to spend many chaotic hours going around different buildings, floors, offices and services, having to compromise with the frustration and negativity that accompanies the process. Sounds heavy next to the carefree experience an e-service user has.
It’s them. The Three Horsemen of the Digital Apocalypse. They’ve been around for long. Too long for comfort. DigEqual has flaming arrows of steel in its quiver though, and it is here with the aim to become the game-changer. Through educational programs, for users and educators alike, a gamified web-app, and everyday scenarios, related of course to the online services of the public authorities, we envision a world, digital or otherwise, that allows no space for Hydras.