- Society is becoming increasingly digital but not everyone is able to participate equally.
- Together with various other private and public actors, BNP Paribas Fortis has taken action to work on the digital divide by launching the Digital Inclusion Ecosystem.
Did you know that 40% of Belgians are at risk of digital exclusion, with this percentage increasing to 75% for low-skilled people with a low income? Or that 10% of Belgian households have no access to internet, a number that amounts to 30% when looking specifically at lower income households?
Digital tools have been part of many citizens’ daily lives for some time now, as they offer numerous advantages. This trend towards becoming a digital society has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. However, not everyone can benefit from digital opportunities due to insufficient access to digital tools or the internet, a lack of necessary digital skills or digital stress. For example, many people in Belgium experience difficulties when having to perform daily tasks online, such as registering their children in school, requesting unemployment benefits, scheduling doctor’s appointments or using Tax-on-Web, and this is not limited to older or low-income population groups. Consequently, these citizens are restricted or even excluded from fully participating in our society.
BNP Paribas Fortis acknowledges the need to act jointly on this problem and considers it its societal responsibility to take action, beyond familiarizing its clients with its own digital solutions. In cooperation with Co.Station, BNP Paribas Fortis has created the Digital Inclusion Ecosystem to tackle digital exclusion in our society. Launched in 2020 with a variety of representatives from businesses, social organizations and public authorities, the project aims to identify and work on various digital challenges in a coordinated manner.
Through the Digital Inclusion Ecosystem, we have already identified concrete and implementable solutions. During six interactive sessions, the project participants discussed with experts the main challenges leading to the digital divide as well as approaches to overcome these. Six paths of action were prioritized:
- Increasing the awareness of the problem through a campaign;
- Coordinating existing projects through a new platform;
- Connecting to hard-to-reach groups via mobile toolboxes;
- Establishing local touchpoints to ensure support;
- Launching a label indicating digital inclusion-friendly organizations; and
- Creating various channels providing continuous digital training.
These pilot projects are about to come to life and contribute to a digitally inclusive society, by making sure that no one is left behind.
Besides looking for solutions, it is equally crucial for the Ecosystem to build a network of people and organizations willing to act on this vision, share best practices and cooperate with each other. This timely and necessary initiative will also contribute to pushing the subject higher up on the public agenda to encourage further policies, reinforcing dialogue, improving services and ultimately improving digital inclusion.
About the author
Linde Verheyden is Director Public Affairs at BNP Paribas Fortis, one of the leading banks in Belgium. She is based in Brussels and is working on the crossroads of public affairs, stakeholder management, CSR and business development. Linde is also a member of AmCham Belgium’s Government Relations Forum.