How Governments can bridge the digital divide?
By Rebecca Christoforidis
Published June 21, 2023
The average person spends approximately 6.5 hours online each day. As internet use becomes more prevalent, society is increasingly relying on technology to facilitate daily lives. This includes the demand for digital access to government services. In fact, Seventy percent of North American residents prefer to access government services online rather than in person.
The adoption of digital technologies has indeed led to the development of various e-government services that provide citizens with easy access to information and services. Paying utility bills, property taxes, acquiring licenses—in many places, residents can now accomplish these tasks online. This has significantly reduced the need for physical visits to government offices, saving time and resources for both government and citizens.
However, even with all this forward digital momentum, there exists a significant inequality when it comes to online access and connectivity, particularly in rural areas or low-income communities. This digital divide exacerbates inequities and hinders socio-economic progress. To address this issue and ensure more widespread digital inclusion, governments need to take proactive measures to bridge the digital divide. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways in which this can be accomplished.
Overcoming the barriers to digital inclusion
Removing the obstacles to online resources is crucial for ensuring equal access to information, education, job opportunities, and various online services but it will require a multifaceted approach.
Governments must prioritize the development and expansion of robust and reliable digital infrastructure, including high-speed broadband networks, particularly in areas that are underserved. By investing in the construction of internet infrastructure, governments can extend connectivity to remote regions, schools, hospitals, and communities lacking adequate access. Collaborating with private sector partners and utilizing innovative technologies, governments should strive to ensure that all citizens have affordable and reliable internet access.
Subsidies and incentives
Governments can offer subsidies and incentives to individuals and businesses to encourage more widespread adoption of digital technologies. They can also offer tax breaks, low-interest loans, and grants to businesses interested in providing internet services in underserved areas.
Affordability and Accessibility
Providing affordable internet access is critical to closing the digital divide. Governments need to work with service providers to offer more affordable data plans, device subsidies, and discounted internet packages for low-income residents and disenfranchised communities. Additionally, public spaces such as libraries, community centers, and schools should be equipped with free internet access to enable those without access at home to bridge the gap.
Digital Literacy and Skills Training
Access to technology alone is not enough to overcome the digital divide; governments must also focus on equipping citizens with the digital literacy and skills needed to participate. Establishing and promoting comprehensive digital literacy programs in schools, colleges, and community centers will empower citizens to navigate the digital landscape effectively. By partnering with educational institutions, and private organizations, governments can provide training on basic digital skills, online safety, cybersecurity, and advanced technical skills to ensure individuals can leverage technology to its maximum potential.
Content and Local Language Support
To promote a sense of community and inclusivity, governments should aid in the creation of content that is culturally relevant. By providing information that is accessible to non-English speakers, marginalized communities can also benefit from technological tools and offerings. This step will facilitate increased participation, knowledge-sharing, and socio-economic opportunities for diverse populations, reducing language barriers in the digital space.
Collaboration and Public-Private Partnerships
Through collaboration with private sector organizations, governments can significantly bridge the digital divide. By partnering with telecommunications companies, technology providers, and other key stakeholders, they can harness the expertise, resources, and innovation those organizations bring to the table to redress the technological imbalance and foster digital inclusion. Governments should establish platforms to encourage dialogue and collaboration and facilitate the sharing and exchange of ideas and initiatives that will lead to more measurable progress or segments of society.
Leveraging Govstack to empower citizens
To enable public sector organizations to provide the kind of digital services their residents require, GHD Digital has built Govstack to give our government customers control of their CMS. The result of which is less time spent dealing with complicated codes and third-party interventions to enact simple changes, and more time devoted to finding ways of overcoming the challenges of digital inclusion. The platform also offers multilingual support, a necessary step in helping to bridge the digital divide.
It is only through these concerted and tools that governments can bring all segments of society into the digital age, empower individuals, and build a future where no one is left behind.
Reach out to us today to see how Govstack and help you achieve a better tomorrow for your citizens.