The global pandemic has laid bare the digital inequities across vertical (income) and horizontal (social, political, and identity) dimensions, while exposing the extent to which pre-pandemic approaches to bridging the digital divide have been dominated by economic considerations even while they are not universally treated as policy priorities.
Access to digital is a product of both material investment and political will. Where there is no conscious effort to include marginalized communities into digitalization plans, these communities can be left behind. In countries where identity-based exclusion is routinely built into political behavior, there can be systematic patterns of exclusion of specific groups (e.g., the indigenous First Peoples of North America, the Roma of Europe, or the Somali of northeast Kenya). Many countries around the world have such communities, and any work to digitalize a country must be founded on politically and socially conscious efforts to include groups that may be left behind by historical marginalization.
This brief reviews key aspects of the digital divide, with special attention to exclusion and inequality, emphasizing that poor connectivity isn’t just about wealth—it is also about inequality. This paper examines the following:
- That COVID-19 has shown how poor policymaking in digital access and use deepens the current inequalities in addition to creating new ones,
- Digital equity through recent thinking, research—and why it matters, and
- Experience with digital equity initiatives (pre- and post-pandemic).
Finally, the authors provide key recommendations for potential digital policies and interventions that can advance equality and inclusion.
Read the full policy brief: Digital Equity as an Enabling Platform for Equality and Inclusion
This policy brief is part of the Pathfinders Grand Challenge on Inequality & Exclusion. More information about this initiative can be found here.