European Information Society and Digital Divide

Roma Gorzelańczyk


In my paper I would like to concern myself with the Information Society issue regarding problems connected with digital divide and exclusion. Considering the fact that this problem embraces a lot of domains I anticipate, that my paper will have interdisciplinary character.

In my article I would like to present initiatives and programmes of European Union institutions and selected member states aiming at elimination of digital divide and exclusions. I would like to focus on European dimension of this subject and ways in which Europe concerns this issue and tries to solve the problem of digital divide.

Analyzing the issue of Information Society in the aspect of main topic which is digital divide and exclusion, a question regarding the problem of dependence between each other appears. Could we claim that digital divide is the effect of building of Information Society, or maybe it is so that Information Society is the way of overcoming it? The answer is not equivocal. At the same time lack of coherent and precise definition of Information Society makes it difficult to solve this dilemma indisputably.

As a result, different European Union institutions’ documents should be analysed in order to find the answer for the question what Information Society is and after that to present in this light the problem of eInclusion.

The issue of Information Society is a crucial problem of European Union policy. This fact is reflected in different documents and legal instruments. A document, which is the basis for this issue was a plan held on Lisbon European Council in 2000. The plan was called: “Information Society for all”. Another important document is eEurope Action Plan, in which there is a regulation about “participation for all in the knowledge-based economy”. However, the core of new Social Inclusion Strategy is the issue of e-Inclusion. Analysis of this and many different documents will be also a subject of my work. For more complete vision of this phenomenon it must be mentioned about the Information Society World Summit final documents, in which we can find ideas about prevention digital exclusion by an access to knowledge and new technologies.

It is always claimed, that new technologies give great possibilities of development for all, both individuals and whole communities. At the same time it is a chance to solve a lot of today’s social problems. New technologies help to pass the geographical borders and distribute information on unimaginable in the past scale. Simultaneously, there are a lot of conditions (such as accessability, knowledge and possibilities) hiding behind every new technology what decides about their real implementation. A computer equipped with Internet connection was intended to be a remedium for example for such problems as unemployment and access to education. However, from literature of the subject and scientific researches arises a reality in which main benefits are achieved mainly by groups which were earlier privileged. Economy of modern countries is based on the use of information technologies (ITC) in many fields.This fact causes that workers are to enquire sophisticated knowledge and are obligated to permanent improving of their qualification. However, for groups for which new technologies were supposed to be a great opportunity for equality and possibility of a better life they become a cause and source of even deeper exclusion. How Charles Jonscher says in “Wired Life. Who Are We in the Digital Age?”: “Future will belong to those who participate in the age of information in the widest, not narrowest way”.

New Technologies become a source of deeper differences in many fields. These differences occur both in global and local communities. They proceed through all socioeconomical categories: young – old, educated – uneducated, poor – rich, employed – unemployed, women – men. With passing the time these differences are getting deeper and deeper and leading another social inequality. What is important digital divides will not be eliminated with the social saturation level of the information technologies and therefore it requires active operations from social policy, what shows Szilárd Molnár Szilard in his article “The explanation frame of the digital divide”.

Summering, this article will include analyses of key operations of European Union which main aim is to eliminate digital exclusion and divide. It is intended to show European Information Society, its concepts and aims as well as problems which must be overcome.