In 2018 around half the world’s population will be online, which is a major achievement. It also means there is still much work to be done to include the other half.
The next four billion users look different to those already benefiting from digital opportunities for livelihoods, life and work. New and diverse strategies are needed for their digital inclusion. (As this becomes more recognised it may herald the golden age of ICT4D, which already practises inclusive strategies.)
Studies show that, in general, the offline population is disproportionately rural, poor, elderly and female. When it comes to digital skills, women are 1.6 times more likely than men to report it as a factor limiting their use of the internet. Offline people often have limited education, low literacy and typically hold informal sector jobs.
In an increasingly online world, people without the required digital skills and literacy – the 750 million people who cannot read or write and the many more who have low literacy – now face a double exclusion, not only from full participation in the real world but also from opportunities in the digital one.
There is a need to both develop the digital skills and literacy amongst this group, as well as create inclusive digital solutions that are suitable for the digital skills they have today in order to ensure inclusion and equal participation for all.
UNESCO Guidelines for Digital Inclusion for Low-skilled and Low-literate People
Recognising that apps and services, if designed appropriately, can provide an entry point for low-skilled and low-literate people into digital usage and can support improved livelihoods and skills development, UNESCO is currently drafting a set of guidelines for more inclusive design of digital solutions. The work is though UNESCO’s partnership with Pearson.
The draft guidelines have been developed in consultation with an international expert group, and are informed by a landscape review Digital Inclusion for Low- skilled and Low-literate People and a set of fourteen case studies.
There are many excellent guides to effective digital development and how to practise user-centred design. In a way that complements and extends existing resources, UNESCO aims to focus the lens on low-skilled and low-literate users as much as possible with the guidelines.
The Target Audience
The primary target audience for the guidelines are digital solution providers – from large providers such as Google and Facebook, to start-ups – as well as implementation and development partners, such as FAO, GIZ, UNICEF and USAID, who can shape the terms of reference for digital solution development.
The secondary audience includes policy makers – for using the guidelines to create inclusive policies and regulatory frameworks, and mobile network operators and technology providers – for creating enabling environments for greater digital inclusion for all.
Seeking Public Input
In order for UNESCO to create guidelines that are informed, valuable and balanced, it is seeking input from the public. So this week there is one long read — the draft guidelines.
Please review and provide input on the document. When reviewing the guidelines, consider these broad questions:
- Is the language and messaging clear?
- Is anything missing? Are there parts that should be further developed? Should anything be removed?
- What would be the ideal way to raise awareness of the guidelines and have them implemented by as many organisations as possible?
UNESCO is also creating a list of external resources to accompany the guidelines. Please feel free to suggest additional resources to the draft document.
Feedback should be sent by email to ICTliteracy@unesco.org by 30 April 2018.
All input is valuable and will be reviewed by UNESCO. Please note, however, that it is not possible to include all input in the final version.
Drawing on the collective feedback from a range of stakeholders, UNESCO will release a final version of the guidelines on 7 September 2018 in celebration of World Literacy Day.
Thank you in advance for your valuable feedback!
Image © Jayalaxmi Agrotech/Anil Kumar