E-inclusion: How companies can help close the digital gap
24 Feb 2024 · 5 min
Chief Sustainability Officer
Access to technology and digital resources has become essential in today's society. However, not everyone has access to these technologies thus the e-inclusion problem persists, leaving many individuals and communities without equal opportunities. Businesses can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable digital landscape by actively engaging in initiatives that close the digital divide. In this blog post, we will shed our light on eight simple actions companies can take to address the digital divide and support e-inclusion.
Create a diverse and inclusive team
By prioritizing accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity, businesses can attract a more diverse range of employees, including those with disabilities who possess unique talents and skills. This can ultimately lead to increased creativity and innovation within the workplace, resulting in a more productive and successful business. By creating an inclusive, accessible, and diverse workplace culture, companies can foster a sense of belonging and community among their employees, leading to increased motivation, job satisfaction, and retention rates.
Design for everyone
An effective way to achieve more inclusive products is by using inclusive and diverse personas with multiple types of users with varying abilities, backgrounds, and preferences during the design process. These personas can be used during strategic workshops, customer journey mapping exercises, or when writing user stories. By incorporating inclusive personas into the design process, companies can gain a deeper understanding of their user's needs and create more accessible and user-friendly products and services. This not only benefits users but also helps companies build a more inclusive and diverse brand that values the needs of all its customers.
To ensure product accessibility and usability, test with a diverse audience, including people with different abilities, ages, cultural backgrounds, and technical expertise. For example, test with seniors who may have impairments for a healthcare app. Additionally, you could collaborate with specialized parties experienced in working with diverse user groups. We at icapps for example work closely together with Saamo, an organisation in Flanders dedicated to closing the digital divide. Saamohelps people overcome digital challenges, but also helps people with all sorts of questions about jobs, housing, affordable internet and so much more. This way we, at icapps, are able to get out of our bubble and test our products with diverse user groups. Their feedback and insights enhance accessibility and usability.
One way to ensure your products are helpful, accessible, or useful to a large amount of people is by performing an accessibility audit on your digital product or website. This means that you have a specialized agency or individual review your product to identify any potential barriers to accessibility and provide recommendations on how to remove those barriers. Ideally, you want an agency that employs people with disabilities to perform the tests, as they will have firsthand experience with the challenges that users with disabilities may face when trying to access your product.
AnySurfer and Elevenways are examples of organizations in Belgium that specialize in accessibility audits and employ or are founded by people with disabilities. By conducting an accessibility audit, you can improve the accessibility of your digital product and ensure that all users are able to use it effectively.
Consider the impact of change
In the world of business and technology, change is often seen as a positive thing. But it's important to remember that not everyone can keep up with rapid or even gradual changes. Many companies are so fixated on expanding their products or services rather than improving them that they overlook the needs of users who may be left behind. This is especially true for older or less tech-savvy individuals who may struggle to adapt to frequent updates in design or functionality.
By the time they've become comfortable with using a certain feature, it may have already been altered or replaced. So, while change can be good, it's crucial to take into account the needs and abilities of all users when implementing new innovations and be aware that you have an impact, even with the smallest changes.
Refurbish your old devices
For (technology) companies, devices often become outdated quickly and are no longer suitable for daily use. However, these devices can still be valuable to many individuals, especially students or children who could benefit from them for school-related tasks.
There are several effective methods available to reintroduce these "old" devices back into circulation, ensuring data security and contributing to bridging the digital divide. Donating or selling them through accredited institutions is a reliable approach. Certain organizations specialize in securely erasing data and donating or reselling devices, with the proceeds benefiting the donating company. By repurposing these devices for schools, for example, we not only enhance digital literacy but also foster a sustainable future. Key organizations in Belgium, including Digitalforyouth, CTG Circular, Close-the-gap, and aSmartWorld, provide valuable support in safely putting older devices to good use.
Training and Collaboration for Inclusion
Participating in inclusive training, conferences, and workshops helps bridge the digital divide. These events provide valuable insights into accessibility, technology usage, and inclusive design. Networking with experts fosters collaboration and sharing of best practices. Inspirational showcases inspire action. By engaging in such activities, individuals gain the knowledge and tools needed to create meaningful change. Together, we can ensure equal access and opportunities in the digital world. Let's join forces in closing the divide.
Go out there and volunteer!
Last but not least, sometimes it is good to come out of that ivory tower and go help people. Volunteering breaks routines, helps individuals, and fosters personal growth. It broadens perspectives, develops empathy, and uncovers hidden talents. It connects like-minded individuals, forming inspiring relationships while working towards common goals. Getting involved doesn't require much time or resources.
Businesses have a vital role to play in creating and fostering an inclusive society and thus closing the digital divide. By implementing even a few of the mentioned actions, companies can make a significant impact on creating a more equitable digital landscape.
Whether it's volunteering for a few hours or donating laptops and devices, every contribution counts towards bridging the digital gap. Together, we can create a more inclusive society and ensure equal access to digital opportunities for all.