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Accepted Paper:

Never good enough: digital citizenship and digital exclusion through the perspective of low-literate Dutch citizens  
Alexander Smit (University of Groningen)

Short abstract:

This article analyzes the lived experiences of low-literate and low digital literate Dutch citizens facing governmentally-imposed digitalization in everyday life, and how these experiences challenge active citizenship ideals.

Long abstract:

One in five Dutch citizens lacks the necessary digital literacies to participate in digital society. This fosters digital inequalities where disadvantaged citizens with low digital skills are marginalized because they lack the necessary resources, skills and knowledge to access and make use of essential public services, which are progressively becoming digital-by-default. While studies acknowledge that a basic level of (digital) literacy is needed to access and make use of the digital realm, an emic understanding of what it means to be a digital (non-)citizen in a rapidly digitizing democracy without possessing such skills is lacking. Hence, we ask: how are socio-digital inequalities experienced and ‘felt’ by disadvantaged publics themselves, and how can we conceptualize digital citizenship from their perspective?

We build on longitudinal participant observations (N=54) and semi-structured interviews (N=27) with low-literate Dutch citizens in three libraries, a community center, and a school for adult education in the Netherlands, exploring the impact of digitization for civic participation, identifying how it creates novel barriers that undermine autonomy, democratic values, and a sense of belonging.

The findings indicate that our participants perceive digital citizenship not as an empowering choice, but as an imposed necessity, questioning the value and inclusivity of the digital society. This highlights essential considerations for the future trajectory of digital citizenship and digital inclusion, and answers calls to explore macro (societal) structures fostering socio-digital inequality in relation to micro (individual) drivers of inequality, while scrutinizing the relations between macro and micro dimensions of inequality in a meso (social) context.

Traditional Open Panel P015
Fostering socially and ecologically sustainable digitalisation of welfare states
  Session 1 Friday 19 July, 2024, -