BE: Off-line youngsters and the digital divide

Published on: 31/10/2009
Last update: 05/03/2010

Description (short summary):
This report regards young people who do not use the Internet or use it very occasionally - the so-called 'off-line' youngsters. It focuses on youngsters aged between 16 and 25 years-old, since it is at the end of adolescence that youngsters undergo a series of transitions in their personal life and become concerned by Internet use in all fields of social life.

A few young people are totally off-line. Thus there is a need to broaden the initial concept of off-line youngsters to those young people who rarely or sporadically use the Internet. According to 'Statistics Belgium' (Statbel - 2008), the 16-24 years-old population breaks into the following figures: 75 % use the Internet regularly, 16 % use it occasionally and 9 % use it rarely or do not use it.

The assessment of statistical data, existing research and the contributions of field agents leads to the same observation: there's a gap between the youngsters' experience of the Internet and Society's expectations. The youngsters' Internet experience mainly pursues communication and entertainment aims. On the contrary, the socioeconomic sphere valorises distinct uses such as: software use, search for and processing of online information, financial and businesses applications, public services online, etc. It is in the light of these uses that one's integration in Information Society is usually assessed, and in turn, the risks of exclusion from Information Society. This gap between the youngsters' skills and the requirements posed by the socioeconomic sphere is sometimes considerable. Yet, the 16-25 years-old are facing transitions and this gap can bring about autonomy and socioeconomic insertion issues.

For those young people who are off-line, the gap is even wider. The exclusion they are confronted with does not mean that they are set aside from ICT; rather, there is a major discrepancy between their limited ICT experiences on the one hand, and the behaviour that Society expects from them in order to enter the world of work, training and autonomous living on the other hand. The word "divide" in such case gets a specific meaning, that of a rift between two worlds.

The challenge of the digital inclusion of youngsters thus consists in building footbridges and going back-and-forth between these two worlds, in an autonomous way. Those almost unconnected youngsters need to find out these bridges and learn and to cross them successfully. To this end, they need assistance.

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Description of license: © SPP Intégration sociale, 2009 – POD Maatschappelijke integratie, 2009

Nature of documentation: Official reports and studies


Type of document