Youth & digitalisation
In Belgium, 33% of young people aged between 16 and 24 are in a situation of digital vulnerability, all social categories taken together. This percentage rises to 47% for young people with only a lower secondary education. This is a worrying situation, especially when we live in a rapidly digitalising society. Access to a computer is not the only solution, but it is an essential first step in tackling digital inequalities. (Data from the Statbel-Eurostat 2021 survey, IACHOSS calculations, UCLouvain) - Périne Brotcorne, researcher in sociology at CIRTES and assistant at FOPES (UCLouvain).
Digital inequality in Belgium seems unthinkable and yet there are too many young people who cannot keep up. We know only too well what the consequences are: digital inequality leads to social exclusion, learning disadvantages and reduced chances of a successful career start. It is our social duty to give young people every opportunity and to involve them in the unstoppable digitalisation. Isn't access to a laptop as essential today as being able to read and write?
It is often during major crises that solidarity and awareness explode. This was the case during the pandemic, but we have also seen it in recent months with the war in Ukraine, where a number of initiatives have been launched to welcome refugees. We had to find them a roof over their heads and a lot of comfort, but their integration also requires access to digital technology: whether to facilitate their integration as citizens, to have access to distance learning or simply to communicate with their loved ones (with Digital for Youth we have committed to donating 1,000 computers for this action, while it is estimated that 10,000 children and young people will need to follow their courses). Again, digital access is essential.
Lack of access to digital tools makes it difficult to develop digital skills and often leads to digital stress. Digital inclusion is now more relevant than ever, including for young people who are often automatically considered digital natives.