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Illectronism: are we equal in front of the digital revolution?

Digital technology has revolutionized our way of life and our understanding of the present and the future, but it also induces inequalities: how can diversity and inclusion be synonymous with performance?

Negative externalities of the digital industry

Digital technology has revolutionized our way of life and our relationship with the past, the present and the future. There is talk of a fourth industrial revolution, which would be entirely data-driven. Like all previous technological revolutions, it opens up new opportunities, allows us to grow intellectually and financially, to develop new uses, etc. But is digital evolving in an inclusive way?

Today, companies, administrations and associations are pushed to take the digitalization turn, without always seeing it as a lever for social and economic integration, even if it is part of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach. The main reason? Very often, the lack of information but also the fact that there are few tools to measure digital inclusion and the social impact of digital.

But inclusion happens to be a performance factor. According to the [Deloitte study](https://www2.deloitte.com/fr/fr /pages/talents-and-human-resources/articles/diversity-and-inclusion.html "Access to the summary of the Deloitte study") Diversity and Inclusion: How to make inclusion a lever for transforming organizations, inclusion is a factor of innovation and transformation, of business development, thanks to a better understanding of customers' needs, and of engagement, in response to employees' expectations. "Companies that practice an inclusive policy generate up to 30% more revenue per salary and a higher conversation than their competitors".

Illectronism, a digital exclusion that affects 17% of the French population

Illectronism is a form of exclusion in two ways: first, by competence and second, by access. Exclusion by competence is as much a difficulty to apprehend digital tools, as software, digital codes or dematerialized administrative procedures. As for exclusion by access, it is a difficulty in accessing the necessary equipment to be simply functional in a digital society (access to a state-of-the-art smartphone, access to a computer, broadband). As with any form of exclusion, we are not talking here about individuals who choose to change their consumption habits (e.g. the slow life trend or a conscious approach to social and environmental responsibility), but about individuals for whom the gap between their lifestyle and the demands of the all-digital world is widening, without them having had the opportunity to exercise their right to choose their lifestyle as part of the digital shift, which affects both economic autonomy, participation in democratic life and social inclusion.

According to a 2019 INSEE report, illectronism affects 17% of the French population (only 2% affects internet users and the remaining 15% concerns non-users).

Who is concerned with illectronism?

All socio-professional categories. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, digitalization has become more pronounced and has become practically a norm, even disrupting the codes of work and socialization, which has had the effect of reinforcing the gap that already existed before the crisis and, in turn, of increasing the precariousness of individuals in a situation of illectronism.

One would tend to think that older people are the most affected, since age (or rather generation) is one of the primary factors, but one should not underestimate the complexity of digital exclusion among young people, which manifests itself in particular when it comes to searching for administrative information or sending professional emails, for example. Young people, even if they are born with digital technology, can also face difficulties. Of course, they know how to perform tasks such as placing orders, following courses, talking to each other via Twitch, Discord or Twitter, but when they are confronted with a difficulty in the digital world, this can trigger discomfort that can generate self-exclusion.

After the age, the second factor of exclusion is the level of education, followed by the standard of living. "A person without a diploma or holding a primary school certificate (CEP) and a person holding a vocational certificate (CAP), a vocational diploma (BEP) or a secondary school certificate (BEPC) are respectively 4 and 2.5 times more likely to be in a situation of illiteracy than a person with higher education. " Indeed, modest households are twice as likely to be in a situation of illiteracy, compared to wealthy households. Source : Public Sénat.

At a time when digital technology has become an integral part of our daily lives and almost every procedure is becoming paperless, such as paying bills, social assistance, taxes, etc., it is becoming important to have access to the Internet. It becomes important to have access to tools such as computers, tablets, smartphones, but also to an Internet network. Accessibility for a better digital performance. Accessibility means taking into account all the physical and mental capacities of each user, as well as their environment and conditions of use.

It is also a lever of ROI (return on investment) for companies. Indeed, the more break points are removed or avoided, the more the number of potential customers increases, because their use path is adapted. People with motor disabilities may have difficulty using certain devices: accessing a website or mobile applications with one hand is much more accessible and comfortable. Let's take the example of people with reduced mobility: it would be a matter of designing devices accessible with one hand, one finger or even speech. There are also non-visible disabilities that contribute to illectronism, such as color blindness.

Color blindness affects 8% of men and 0.5% of women in France. What are the consequences? The inability to distinguish colors correctly implies that during their user experience, people with color blindness have a completely different user interface, much less obvious. For example, color progressions are complicated to visualize, which can make the user experience uncomfortable or even inaccessible. As for dyslexics with a specific reading disorder, this results in difficulties in the acquisition of written language and in the automation of the mechanisms for mastering writing: reading, writing, spelling.

Have you ever been confronted with identification passwords such as: ZyH35Ee and had trouble identifying yourself after the first time, even with the sound option? Not all people who have to deal with a lack of digital accessibility are necessarily digitally challenged, and therefore do not necessarily suffer from illectronism. Illectronism is simply another facet of the lack of accessibility. Some sites do not have telephone support for connection problems or access difficulties. People with these difficulties frequently give up on completing their online procedures, primarily for these reasons. This can manifest itself in the access to pages: cookies in the foreground, chat windows, pages for other services.

Digital mediation and training can help make digital more accessible. Learning remains the key to reducing the digital divide. Emmaus, the ACIAH association or the Grande école du numérique, are examples of organizations that propose solutions to these issues. The government has started to take up the issue by implementing various actions. These include the implementation of a support platform for everyday digital accessibility, coupled with telephone support. For example, the Digital Solidarity portal. The Senate presented in an excellent report on illiteracy in September 2020, 45 measures to fight against illiteracy. You can find a summary of this report and the full report online here. The MEDNUM also acts on a daily basis by doing digital mediation, in order to accompany the digital transition of territories.

Improving the social footprint of digital services

Illectronism is a real issue for society. According to INSEE (2019 Household Living Conditions Survey Report), 38% of the population lacks at least one key digital skill.

This is also a challenge for companies. Paths accessible to all mean more prospects, more users, more satisfied customers in the end, beyond even the societal issue.

Inclusion is therefore a success factor for those who want to use it as a lever for overall performance from a Corporate Social Responsibility perspective.