A qualitative analysis of the development of digital autonomy beyond the life course perspective

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The increasing digitization of public as well as private services is progressively posing a threat for individuals and communities that do not possess the necessary tools and competences to handle the new digital ecosystems. Yet, although research has been conducted around digital inclusion in Flanders, in Wallonia and at the national level, our knowledge regarding mechanisms of in/exclusion, as well as their impact on the societal participation of citizens, remains limited. Indeed, recent studies (van Deursen and Helsper, 2018; Helsper and Reisdorf, 2017; Mariën and Baelden, 2015; Brotcorne and Valenduc, 2009) have shown that the traditional discourses correlating digital exclusion with social exclusion and deprivation are no longer valid. As a result, there is no longer a clear-cut view on the groups at risk of being excluded since the classical dichotomies – rich/ poor, young/old – are no longer entirely significant. Therefore, a new and contextualized approach is needed to provide a refreshed understanding regarding the mechanisms influencing processes of in- exclusion.
Moreover, several experts such as van Deursen and van Dijk (2014) outline the fact that societal participation is more and more predicated on the ability of citizens to use digital technologies in an autonomous manner. This shift towards the development of strategic competences is already observable in recent e-inclusion policies, focused today not solely on the provision of physical access to technologies, but increasingly emphasizing the use of technologies to achieve broader the societal objectives such as social integration or civic participation. Hence, the IDEALiC project builds on such developments to a) establish the future scene of digital inclusion, and b) provide solutions in line with the current digitalization of society.
This deliverable D.2.2. ‘A qualitative analysis of digital autonomy beyond the life course’ starts from the premise that digital and social in-exclusion are multidimensional processes reflecting broader types of inequalities. This report considers experiences with digital technologies from a life course perspective, and aims at identifying the crucial aspects that define an autonomous use of digital technologies. Concretely, this deliverable is based on 85 in-depth interviews with respondents equally distributed across three (3) specific life categories: a) first life stage: 18-30 years old; b) second life category: 31-50 years old; c) third life stage: 51-70 years old. The 85 respondents are additionally equally divided across three (3) levels of education:
- High education level – respondents with minimum a bachelor diploma;
- Middle education level – respondent with maximum a high school diploma;
- Low education level – respondents with maximum a middle school diploma.
The strength of this approach is that it allows to move beyond the traditional emphasis on quantitative analyses to look at digital practices across the three (3) life stages: when it comes to having access to technology, what experiences are present among three life groups? How and where do experiences differ across the three life groups?
Originele taal-2English
UitgeverijBelgian Science Policy
Opdrachtgevend orgaanFederaal Wetenschapsbeleid (FOD) - BELSPO
Aantal pagina's117
StatusPublished - 24 okt 2020


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