Digitization has been advancing rapidly in Europe for ten years now. Whether in business, education, culture or leisure, more and more people are using digital offerings, provided they have the necessary hardware and software as well as the skills to operate them. The Corona Crisis has accelerated this development since 2020, as many companies and organizations, as well as government offices, agencies and schools, are currently experiencing a veritable digitalization push in order to keep operations running in times of lockdown and distance rules. People living in poverty, however, remain mostly excluded from this: they usually have neither computers nor WLAN and often do not even have the means to secure their basic rights during the pandemic. A new study by the Capgemini Research Institute shows that even before the outbreak of the crisis, 69 percent of people without online access were living in poverty, and almost half of the "offline population" would like to have access to the Internet. This is because increasingly, for example, they can only apply for social benefits online, consultations take place via meeting tools, and instruction takes place not in schools but in digital classrooms. Access to the labor market and job searches, as well as political and cultural opportunities, are also made more difficult or prevented for people without digital access. "These people become invisible in digital communication and are thus forgotten by society," Internationaler Bund (IB) Chairman Thiemo Fojkar laments the current situation. "Through Corona, the effect is amplified and people in poverty are further left behind in social participation."
The Internationaler Bund (IB) is therefore working with other social associations to ensure that public WLAN and a minimum digital equipment consisting of a computer or laptop with a printer must be available to everyone across the board. "It is necessary to overcome the digital divide between those who are materially and personally able to participate in digital life and those who lack these prerequisites," Thiemo Fojkar calls on politicians to finally act. In addition to basic technical equipment for everyone, this also includes teaching digital skills, especially for children and young people affected by poverty, so that they have the same educational opportunities as children from affluent families. "Digital participation opportunities are a basic social right that must be guaranteed," says Thiemo Fojkar, "so that social exclusion is prevented and access to public services, education and work is made possible."