Shedding Light on the Digital Vulnerability: Challenges and Solutions
Authors: Kristina Reinsalu
Abstract: There was a hope that digital transformation, in improving public service provision and delivery, and in promoting inclusion – with due regard to the needs of vulnerable populations – is instrumental in mitigating the effects of exclusion and improving people’s livelihoods (UN e-Government Survey 2012). Also, the rise of social media with their more inclusive tendencies and lower technical skill requirements was expected to open new horizons for the inclusion of vulnerable groups. Whereas these hopes have partly become true, we are also witnessing that vulnerable groups are facing new type of risks such as digital harassment, hate speech, disinformation/misinformation attacks and other risks which hinder those groups from fully benefitting from digital transformation.While traditional digital divide reasons (lack of access and skills) remain important, motivational reasons have increased in importance over time. Effective interventions aimed at tacklingdigital exclusion need to take into consideration national contexts, individual experience etc. What worked a decade ago in a particular country might not work currently in a different or even the same country (Helsper, E.J. and Reisdorf, B.C. 2016). The aim of research paper is to shed a light on the digital vulnerability, and to understand (a) which are the groups and activities where digital transformation (increase of digital awareness, skills, resources) could bring about the biggest change in the quality of life, and empowerment? (b) What are the main actors in this field? (c) What are the practical implications to rise their capacity and empower them?Our research collects and analyses data from Ukraine and Georgia. The democratic development of these two countries has been relatively similar. Both countries have also placed emphasis on digital development. However, the state of democracy is fragile in both countries, there are many inequalities and a great threat to security, especially in Ukraine. This makes the vulnerable groups even more vulnerable digitally and the risks mentioned above might have real dramatic consequences.Even though we are looking more closely at these two countries, there is a threat to democracy and societies everywhere, so this focus is universal.The research will make use of primary as well as of secondary data. The primary data will be collected using semi-structured interviews with different stakeholders. The secondary data will be collected from public sources (strategy and policy documents etc.)In our study the digitally vulnerable groups (DVG) are those whose digital engagement in political decision-making and e-services is hindered by their lack of awareness of digital issues, access to technological benefits, and / or digital literacy and skills. Irrespective of the causes (e.g. demographic, socioeconomic and/or health status, living conditions or social position, etc.), these barriers prevent the people from reaping the benefits of digital transformation and as such, have a negative impact on their rights, interests, and everyday life. The primary research shows that the priority target groups are similar in both countries – these are (a) children and young people; and (b) elderly people. Evidently those both groups have completely different needs, barriers, and enablers for benefitting from digital agenda. The research is part of a project DRIVE, the results will be used for preparing recommendations for action, train civil society organisations and public authorities to work on these recommendations and turn two of the recommendations into a pilot project to be implemented during the project.
Keywords: digital vulnerability, digital risks and motivations, young people, elderly
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