What is digital inclusion?

Everything you need to know about digital inclusion—what it is, what it entails in practice, and why it matters.

Hands holding global network connections symbolizing widespread digital inclusion.

In 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a nearly overnight transition to remote, internet-based operations for institutions around the world. It also underscored the extent of the worldwide digital divide.

Teachers like Marisol Martinez, living in rural Mexico, were forced to leave their families behind to find areas with more reliable internet access. Students based everywhere from Nigeria to the Seattle suburbs were disconnected and left without the resources required to continue their educations.

Workers struggled to quickly learn new skills or navigate new remote technology tools without experience.

The need for greater digital inclusion was clearer than ever—and three years later, it remains in critical demand as individuals and communities catch up to digital transformation which has accelerated over recent years.

But what does digital inclusion entail in practice?

Quick Takeaways

  • The goal of digital inclusion initiatives is to further support equitable access to and use of digital technologies to participate in modern society.
  • Corporate responsibility for digital inclusion is growing, but most organizations still need improvement when it comes to action and impact.
  • Digital inclusion efforts begin with effective stakeholder education and engagement.
  • Affordable access, digital skills training, and inclusive offerings are foundational building blocks to digital inclusion.
  • Pooling resources through strategic partnerships (typically between for-profit companies and NGOs) maximizes the impact of digital inclusion efforts.
  • Digital inclusion often requires legislative support. Companies can steer the course by advocating for policies that advance inclusion initiatives.

What is digital inclusion and why does it matter?

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

These are the words used by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) to put into context exactly what digital inclusion means—and it’s an apt explanation.

Digital inclusion is the active, ongoing work to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to the digital technologies they need to participate in modern society. This includes education, entertainment, healthcare, employment, and the increasing aspects of life that now require the internet.

Digital inclusion also goes beyond standard access to help underserved communities develop digital skills, mitigate technology-related risks, and learn to innovate in ways that improve their own lives and make the world around them better.

This work is more important now than ever. As technology advances at an accelerating pace, the digital divide is at risk of widening without continual digital inclusion efforts. Companies with the knowledge, capabilities, capacity, and resources to do it must take on this responsibility both within their own organizations and as a give-back to their immediate and global communities.

7 Key elements of digital inclusion


Transformation begins with awareness. To effect change toward greater digital inclusion, businesses, regulators, investors and non-profits must first have awareness and an understanding of the issue itself.

For Viasat, digital inclusion is at the heart of our mission. We go beyond just providing connectivity, we also want to help bridge the digital divide – sustainably and affordably.

Through social impact initiatives to skill-based volunteerism, Viasat is actively engaged in many aspects of digital inclusion and spreading awareness through action.

Affordable access

Organizations like the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) enable affordable internet service to low-income households, as well those on Tribal lands through initiatives like the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Viasat partners with ACP to help close the digital divide by making internet more affordable. As an ACP participant, we are able to apply the FCC’s ACP discount to our plans for those who qualify to bring essential internet service to new customers, and to keep current customers connected.

Programs like ACP help make connectivity more affordable and therefore accessible to a wider range of individuals and communities, particularly those that are historically underserved.

Digital skills training

Digital literacy is a central part of reaching true digital inclusion. While access is a first necessary step, digital literacy is what gives people the confidence to communicate and collaborate using digital tools and technologies. According to Forbes, it’s also going to be the #1 most in-demand skill across industries through 2030.

Employees are recognizing demand for advanced digital skills and are willing to do the work to gain them—more than 80% say they wish their employers offered more opportunities to upskill and reskill in their positions.

Many Viasat employees are strong advocates for digital literacy and volunteer their time to share their knowledge with the newly connected.

Most recently, 12 Viasat employees traveled to Mexico to teach a non-profit organization based in Hidalgo, Mexico, Psicología y Derechos Humanos (PSYDEH), to teach them specialized digital literacy skills. With this knowledge PSYDEH can share this knowledge with local indigenous women. The goal with teaching these digital literacy skills to indigenous women is to empower them to explore educational resources, find jobs and potentially become entrepreneurs themselves.

Inclusive products and services

Digital inclusion requires being digital equity. But technology often reflects the biases and preferences of those who develop it and/or have access to it most. It’s designed (however unintentionally) to align with certain preferences, skills, and abilities that exclude many groups and individuals—typically those already underrepresented in other spaces.

To combat this challenge, the industry is starting to develop products, services, and digital platforms that are accessible and user-friendly for groups that don’t fit the traditional profile of the digitally privileged, such as older adults, individuals with disabilities, people living in low-income or rural areas, and those with low digital literacy.

This can involve incorporating features such as assistive technologies, intuitive interfaces, and multilingual support (among many others).

Strategic partnerships

Some of the most powerful digital inclusion initiatives were launched through collaboration between for-profit technology companies and NGOs as well as government agencies, nonprofits, and community organizations who work together to address challenges.

These types of partnerships enable strategic pooling of resources (for example: NGO funding with a for-profit company’s digital expertise) to make a more significant difference in bridging the digital divide.

Viasat participates in many digital inclusion-focused programs, including partnering with the Columbia Urban League, 19 Labs, Microsoft and many others to pool resources and make an impact where it’s needed most.

Employee engagement

Employees are sometimes an untapped resource, many of whom have unique skills and knowledge that enable them to contribute to digital inclusion on an individual level. Employee buy-in and engagement around digital inclusion efforts can be a force multiplier when it comes to elevating awareness, education and implementation of digital inclusion strategies.

This may include mentoring other employees, teaching digital skills to groups that need them, or actively working on digital inclusion initiatives within your organization, even if they don’t fall under their traditional role and responsibilities.

Viasat’s skills-based volunteerism program empowers individual employees to help close the digital dive. From Mexico to Brazil, our employees traverse the globe teaching digital literacy and enabling connectivity to underserved communities.

Advocacy and policy engagement

Companies--individually and through their trade associations--are often in a position to influence the development and implementation of governmental programs and policies. This extends to digital inclusion efforts, including advocating for connectivity programs and the appropriate funding levels to ensure the successful implementation of programs to make digital inclusion a reality.

Digital inclusion Going Forward

There is much work to be done to propel digital inclusion, and efforts toward making it happen are having life-changing impacts. At Viasat, we’re seeing it firsthand. In fact, Viasat’s skills-based volunteerism program was recently honored by Communitas Awards for excellence in “Community Service and Social Responsibility.”

Over the past year, for example, our social impact team’s partnership with Viasat’s Brazil office and the Nova Sertao Institute to execute the Todos Conectados program has resulted in four remote locations in Brazil gaining internet access, impacting 500+ people. At the same time, 50+ students graduated from the program’s most recent class, which taught basic computer and internet skills to help them navigate the job market.

Other Viasat-led digital inclusion efforts include working with CFE Telecommunications and Internet for All (CFE-TEIT) to connect 850 schools and public locations in Mexico with public access to free Wi-Fi in areas where it wouldn’t have been economically feasible to connect otherwise. Additionally, we partnered with Microsoft’s Airband initiative to help increase internet availability for 5 million people across Africa with a goal to connect an additional 5 million people around the world by the end of 2025.

As more organizations recognize, prioritize, and focus on the need for more effort around digital inclusion, similar impacts can be made in places and for groups around the world.

Learn more about how Viasat technology is expanding worldwide digital inclusion.