Social inclusion in digitizing societies: Starting from the lifeworld of people with a low socioeconomic position

Nicole Sylvia Goedhart

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD Thesis - Research VU Amsterdam, graduation VU Amsterdam

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Abstract

In rapidly digitizing societies, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are indispensable for even some of the most mundane tasks. While COVID-19 has expedited societal digitization, the number of citizens who cannot meet the high demands of the digitized society is still high. Research into digital inequality emphasizes that socioeconomic and digital inequalities interact and reinforce each other. It is predominantly quantitative studies on digital inequality that focus on the correlations between socio-demographics and digital inequalities. These studies are often less helpful for understanding how digital inequalities interact with daily life, what it means not to be connected, and what is needed to reduce digital inequalities. The central aim of this thesis is to facilitate the development of policies and practices that address digital inequalities so that they are more sensitive to the complex daily realities of citizens with a low SEP by gaining insight into the complex daily realities of citizens with a low SEP and understanding their needs in the digitized society and facilitating and reflecting on the meaningful engagement of citizens, researchers, technology developers, and policymakers in digital inclusion. A unique characteristic of this thesis is that it started from a seemingly minor practical policy-related question that was asked by the City of Amsterdam. In close cooperation with citizens with a low SEP, volunteers and professionals working with these citizens, and policymakers of the City of Amsterdam, this minor question evolved into multiple research projects. To facilitate this, we built on the principles underlying action-oriented research while deploying a wide range of study designs. Chapter 4-6 zoom in on how the complex daily realities of citizens with a low SEP impact their experiences and needs in digitizing societies. Reinforcing factors related to poverty, motherhood, the complexity of ICTs, and being first-generation immigrant influence access and use. The needs of citizens living in vulnerable circumstances go beyond the simple distribution of ICTs or organizing an ICT course. Chapters 5–8 reflect on the engagement of citizens, researchers, technology developers, and policymakers in research and policymaking. Chapter 5 reflects on the complex reality of a participatory action research (PAR) process concerning digital inequality. We show that what constitutes ‘good’ PAR is situational and should debated more often. Chapter 6 focuses on the use of vlogs in PAR. The creation of the vlogs stimulated shared learning between the women involved, researchers and policymakers. To reach the wider community, spreading the vlogs in a local setting seem to be a more promising focus for further research than buying into a dream of co-created vlogs that go viral. In chapter 7, strategies, tool, and methods are identified that could support the inclusion of citizens with a low SEP in research. This review shows the urge to reflect not only on research practices but also on the policy and research culture that in a more systemic way does not support the engagement of citizens living in vulnerable circumstances. Chapter 8 unravels the (conceptual) assumptions of designers and others responsible for patient portal implementation. This chapter shows that equitable design is seen as an ‘end-of-the-pipeline’ concern. So, it is not just individuals who need to learn skills; professionals also need to learn how to adapt policies or practices to the needs of citizens living in vulnerable circumstances. Social inclusion in digitizing societies should be approached as a collective challenge. Policymakers, ICT designers, and researchers should learn from each other and, more importantly, should learn from the experiential knowledge of citizens experiencing digital inequalities on a daily basis. Only by learning from each other can we can make sure that everyone gains benefits from the digitizing world.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Broerse, JEW, Supervisor
  • Dedding, C., Co-supervisor, External person
  • Zuiderent-Jerak, Teun, Co-supervisor
Award date3 Jun 2021
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789464232066
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Digital divide
  • Digital inequality
  • Socioeconomic inequalities
  • Action Research
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Qualitative research
  • Science, Technologie and Society
  • Policy

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