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Digital exclusion affects the human rights of 40 per cent of the Belgian population

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Today, no fewer than 46 organisations and companies made a strong commitment by signing the Digital Inclusion Charter. They did so at the launch of the DigitAll campaign in the presence of Federal Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter. As much as 40 per cent of the Belgian population today risks exclusion from our increasingly digitised society. This jeopardises their de facto fundamental human rights. This figure was the call to action for the minister and managers of a wide range of organisations. “Forty per cent. This affects all levels within society, rich or poor, old or young,” says the DigitAll coalition.

Thursday 16 June, the DigitAll campaign was launched with a special event. It took place at the human rights obelisk at the Thurn & Taxis site, which was erected in honour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Special effects projected an upside-down replica of the obelisk to illustrate that digital exclusion puts our fundamental human rights on shaky ground.

Petra De Sutter, Deputy Prime Minister: “Make no mistake. Digital exclusion goes beyond the lack of a smartphone or computer. Whether you have access to the Internet and are digitally literate increasingly affects whether you can participate in our society. We often take our human rights for granted and underestimate how new forms of exclusion can have major consequences. So, our fight against digital exclusion is nothing less than a fight for fundamental rights.”

Which is why DigitAll – a broad coalition of private, social, and public companies, with BNP Paribas Fortis and Proximus as pioneers – is launching a campaign today to make everyone aware of the risks of digital exclusion. Organisations are encouraged to take the initiative and citizens to participate in events that enable digital inclusion.

Digital exclusion: an underestimated problem

Digital exclusion affects Belgians of all ages and backgrounds. This happens when they lack access to technology or have inadequate digital skills. These vulnerable people face a barrier to services that we in our society consider essential to everyone's well-being.

The campaign used testimonies to show that people today without access to digital technology, lack the necessary skills, or are afraid of it, cannot fully exercise their fundamental human rights.

Today, 40 per cent of Belgians risk exclusion from the digital society. Some key facts and figures:

• According to a study by the King Baudouin Foundation, ‘Digital Inclusion Barometer’ (by P. Brotcorne and I. Mariën in 2020), almost one in two Belgians are at risk of digital exclusion regardless of age or social status.

• Moreover, the recent “Digital Inclusion Barometer” of the King Baudouin Foundation shows that 1-in-10 Belgian families lack access to an Internet connection at home.

• The digitisation of many everyday tasks becomes an insurmountable challenge when one does not have the required digital knowledge and skills. This includes making a doctor's appointment, registering children for school, applying for a job, completing forms on Tax-on-Web, and so on.

• Digital exclusion can affect anyone. Yet few people give it much thought.

The Digital Inclusion Charter now has more than 70 signatories. Their signatures commit them to:

• Collaborate and identify best practices that improve digital inclusion and share these with other signatories.

• Promote digital inclusion within their organisation and beyond.

• Support campaigns that make digital inclusion a priority because the public is barely aware of the social divisions affected by digital exclusion and the real extent of the problem.

Specifically, DigitAll is starting the campaign with the following measures:

• A website (www.digitall.be) to bring together the various current initiatives intended to reduce digital exclusion. By bringing together available offerings, DigitAll also wants to inspire and motivate other actors in society to promote greater digital inclusion.

• Of course, the initiative is not just limited to the website. To reach citizens who are not yet digitally savvy, DigitAll places brochures in post offices, Proximus shops, and throughout the BNP Paribas Fortis network to inform and guide as much of the population as possible about the digital society.

These new stakeholders are already participating:
• Accenture Belgium & Luxembourg 
• AlphaCredit 
• Anysurfer
• Arval Belgium
• BeCode
• Bibliothèques Sans Frontières Belgique - Libraries Without Borders Belgium
• Circular.Brussels
• Child Focus 
• Cyber Security Coalition
• The Water Group
• DiAX
• District09
• Eleven Ways 
• Enabel
• Erasmus Brussels University
• Febelfin
• Forem
• ING
• Interface3.Namur 
• iTESE bv
• Le monde des possibles 
• LINC vzw
• Link in de Kabel
• FPS Economy
• MolenGeek
• Namahn
• SNCB
• Nova Reperta
• Out of Use
• Pidpa
• POD Social Integration
• Publicis Groupe Belgium
• Roche Pharmaceuticals
• School 19
• Signpost
• Smartschool
• SPW
• Technobel
• Unizo
• Uqalify
• VUB
• VVSG
• WEB-BLENDERS
• WeTechCare
• Womenpreneur
• UWE