2024 Guide to enabling digital inclusion

Learn the ins and outs of how communities and organizations can propel digital inclusion, plus key considerations as we move into 2024 and beyond.

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Across Mexico, entrepreneurial indigenous women are eager to share their locally-made goods with the world. From embroidery to woodworking to hand-woven fabrics and more, their work is unique to their culture and has mass appeal for consumers around the world. The ability to offer their goods to customers around the globe presents a life-changing opportunity for these women to earn income for their families and live more comfortably.

The challenge is that many don’t have the digital technologies and skills needed to sell their goods on a large and global scale or to create sustainable businesses. All the while, millions of entrepreneurs in developed parts of the world are able to launch and scale new businesses on a daily basis.

This is just one of countless examples of the digital divide and the massive opportunity gap it creates, and highlights the ongoing need for digital inclusion work to eliminate it.

Through a partnership with nonprofit organization Psicología y Derechos Humanos (PSYDEH), Viasat has empowered indigenous women across Mexico to attain the skills and knowledge they need to start their businesses and share their talents with the world.

In this guide, we’ll share how you can make this kind of digital inclusion work a reality in your own community and others you care about. Plus, we’ll explore important considerations for digital leaders as we move toward a faster-changing and digitally-driven society.

Quick takeaways:

Digital inclusion is the active work toward closing the digital divide and achieving digital equity.

Core components of digital inclusion are: accessibility, affordability, digital literacy, and inclusive design.

Successful digital inclusion efforts require a current state assessment, defined goals, a diverse team, and a clear execution plan.

Digital inclusion efforts must evolve and adapt to changing technologies.

Looking ahead, leaders should prioritize continuous learning, collaboration, engaging young audiences, and promoting good digital citizenship.

Digital inclusion defined: what it means and what the work entails

Digital inclusion encompasses policies, initiatives, and any other effort made toward ensuring all people and communities have equal access to digital technologies, particularly the internet, as well as the ability to use them successfully in daily life.

The term is rooted in addressing the long-standing issue of the digital divide, or the gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who don’t. While the digital divide has historically been considered a disparity of access, digital inclusion aims to solve it more holistically, creating a world with real digital equity.

Digital equity ensures that individuals not only have access, but can also use digital tools to their fullest potential, leveling the playing field in terms of opportunities, education, and socioeconomic growth.

Key components of digital inclusion work include:

Affordability: Making sure everyone can afford digital devices and services.

Digital literacy training: Ensuring users can understand and use technology safely and effectively.

Relevant Content and Services: Providing content that is meaningful to all users, irrespective of their socio-cultural background or language.

Quality connectivity: Offering a stable and reliable internet connection, so users can engage in activities without hindrance, even in hardest-to-reach regions.

Inclusive design: Designing digital tools and platforms so they’re usable by everyone, including those with disabilities and people across languages and cultures.

In short, if the digital divide is the problem, and digital equity is the solution, digital inclusion is the active work toward making it happen.

Digital divide is the issue, digital equity is the goal, digital inclusion is the work.

NDIA

It’s an ongoing effort requiring collaboration between expert individuals and both public and private organizations with the resources to make an impact. Let’s walk through the key steps to enabling digital inclusion in communities at any scale.

Enabling digital inclusion in your community: 8 key steps

1. Assess current infrastructure

Before embarking on any digital inclusion initiative, it’s essential to understand the current digital landscape in your community. This includes recognizing gaps in access, assessing the quality of existing connectivity, and identifying areas that lack digital literacy resources.

Performing a thorough assessment provides a foundation to important action steps like setting a budget, choosing partners, and creating a viable execution plan.

2. Build a diverse team

Collaboration is at the heart of any successful digital inclusion effort. Building a diverse team ensures a wide range of perspectives and expertise are poured into your initiatives. Key stakeholders like local government representatives, tech experts, educators, and local community leaders can play critical roles to the sucess of enabling digital inclusion.

3. Set clear and well-defined goals

Digital inclusion is a broad and long-term endeavor. Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals will ensure your initiatives always maintain direction and purpose.

Equally important is to set up clear processes for tracking and reporting on progress and assessing community impact. This typically happens through periodic reporting on predefined KPIs and metrics, which the team can then review together and use to continually improve their efforts.

1. Eliminate access barriers

Addressing access barriers must be an early step taken in any digital inclusion effort. These can range from economic constraints to limited affordability to lack of digital literacy resources to an absence of inclusive design for people with disabilities.

: Graphic showing access barriers to digital inclusion, which include affordability, attainability, connectivity, awareness, and digital literacy

DAI

Your initial assessment will be a significant resource for this step, helping you to identify the types of access barriers most prevalent in your community.

1. Create a detailed execution plan

With goals in place and barriers identified, the next step is developing a comprehensive plan. This should detail the roles and responsibilities of each team member, timelines for each initiative, and the resources needed. Document your plan and make it shareable to ensure continuity and accountability.

A detailed plan will help break down your digital inclusion efforts into actionable and manageable steps, and it can serve as a helpful benchmark against which you can track and measure progress toward goals.

2. Perform widespread outreach

No matter how robust the infrastructure or how detailed the execution plan, without community buy-in, digital inclusion efforts will fall short. Use outreach channels like local media, community events, schools, and other platforms to disseminate information about available resources, training sessions, and other related programs as you implement them.

Celebrate success stories and milestones by sharing them widely with the community (and, when it makes sense, audiences on a wider scale) to build momentum and boost engagement.

3. Monitor progress and make adjustments

As you execute, constantly track your progress against your goals. Regular assessments provide insights into what’s working and what needs adjustment. Feedback loops with the community can offer valuable on-the-ground perspectives, ensuring the program remains adaptive and relevant.

4. Evolve and adapt

The realm of technology is always evolving, and so are the needs of a community. Regularly revisit your strategies, update goals, and adapt to new challenges or opportunities that emerge. Remember, digital inclusion is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment.

Looking to 2024 and beyond

As we move to the future, it becomes increasingly evident that digital technology will continue to become more embedded into every facet of our lives, from education and healthcare to commerce to social interactions and more.

The need for digital inclusion work, then, isn’t temporary. It requires long-term commitment to filling any access, literacy, or other needs gaps that arise as technology advances and evolves.

For digital leaders, several imperatives stand out:

Continuous learning: The digital world is ever-evolving. Leaders should invest in regular training and capacity-building initiatives, ensuring that they and their communities are always on the pulse of new technologies.

Engage the youth: Young people are not just passive consumers but also the next generation of digital creators, educators, and leaders. Engaging them ensures a sustainable and innovative future for digital inclusion efforts.

Embrace collaboration: The scale and complexity of ensuring digital inclusion means no single entity can tackle it alone. Collaboration at every level and across sectors is essential to gain fresh perspectives, access needed resources, and implement innovative solutions.

Anticipate challenges: New technologies might introduce new divides or barriers. Digital leaders should be forward-thinking, anticipating potential issues, and proactively working on solutions.

Promote ethical practices: With increased digitalization comes the responsibility to ensure good digital citizenship and ethical practices, from data privacy to combating misinformation. Leaders must champion responsible and transparent digital behavior at every turn.

Going forward, continuing the journey toward universal digital inclusion will be more critical than ever to achieving equitable opportunities for people and communities around the world, regardless of their location. While notable strides have been made in recent years, the path ahead will require even faster adaptability, more collaboration, and a collective commitment to building an inclusive global community.

Digital inclusion is at the core of Viasat’s mission. Our satellite internet technology and global services connect communities around the world and help them build digital skills for the future. Learn more here about Viasat’s most recent digital inclusion initiatives.