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Dimensions of Digital Inclusion: A Review of Research and Practice, Part 2 (2021)

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April 9, 2022

This report offers insights on programs designed to increase digital inclusion, through a dual focus on digital literacy and on options to make services more affordable.

Overview

Although digital literacy does not explicitly encompass affordability concerns, the two go hand in hand – without affordable services, the skills acquired through digital literacy programs would remain underutilized or completely untapped, leaving people digitally excluded.

Recognizing the importance of digital access as an enabler of economic and social inclusion, many have argued that the Internet should be a basic human right, provided publicly to those who cannot afford it. Subsequently, certain municipalities have explored the possibility of treating broadband access like a public utility, leveraging private-public partnerships to provide next generation access in a specialized manner that is not currently available in the market.

Against this backdrop, this report consists of three distinct, yet interconnected sections:

  1. The first section identifies, outlines and evaluates a series of digital literacy programs providing services in Canada and the US. To underscore the importance of cultivating a coordinated effort towards digital literacy objectives, the framing of the first section is centred around the question: What types of digital literacy programs are being offered to the most vulnerable and underserved cohorts?
  2. The second part of this report highlights several different subsidy schemes throughout North America, and by doing so, illustrates the institutional precedent for subsidizing access to public utilities and broadband.
  3. The third section considers possible recommendations and offers conclusions.

Recommendations

  • Feasible Digital Literacy Options - This extensive review of digital literacy programs shows that one essential digital competency that is absent from the entirety of digital literacy curricula is the competency to assess price plans and service offerings from Internet and mobile providers, and to negotiate deals that best suit individuals’ needs.
  • Broadband Subsidies - Ongoing policy efforts are needed to increase competition and create real choice in the Canadian broadband market so that Internet service providers offer more affordable options, and subsidization is reserved only for the lowest income earners.
Dimensions of Digital Inclusion - A Review of Research and Practice, Part 2 (2021)

Summary

This report offers insights on programs designed to increase digital inclusion, through a dual focus on digital literacy and on options to make services more affordable.
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