Why we help
Our organisation exists to combat the digital gap and associated inequalities in Germany. Below we aim to describe the problem and current situation in Germany.
Today, access to modern information and communication technologies is of great significance. Thanks to the internet, we find ourselves on the path to a modern knowledge-based society. However, this means that people without access to computers and the internet are left out. We want every person in Germany to have access to a computer and the internet, and consequently reduce the digital gap.
The phrase “digital gap” describes the fact that access to computers and internet is unequal and strongly dependent on socio-economic factors. There are strong indications that people with access to these technologies have better social and commercial opportunities. Thus combating the digital gap also means combating social inequality in our society.
This problem is also present in Germany, a developed nation. The number of private households with computers is approximately 81% (German Bureau of Statistics, 2011). 16% of those surveyed had never used a computer. According to a study by the Initiative D21, one in four people in Germany do not have access to the internet. These people who only operate “offline” require more assistance than ever: from checking whether your train is delayed to finding savings prices, internet access is key. They are excluded from the frequent discounts of online shopping. Some phone companies charge their customers for posting out a paper bill. The standard form of communication is email. More and more administrative services have increased their online presence, providing online registration services, and online applications for personal identification documents. Those who can only act offline are excluded from these opportunities and have to wait in line.
A closer look at the study, “The Digital Society” from Initiative D21, shows that the majority of those with higher education qualifications use the internet. The digital gap becomes clearer when looking at “digital outsiders”. This group typically has a higher average age (62.5 years old), less formal education, a below average household income, and high unemployment rates (73%).
A central element of the digital gap in developed countries like Germany, lies in the technical hardware access to broadband internet. A German Government initiative hopes to introduce this hardware access nationwide. However, a hardware internet connection has no utility, when an end device is lacking, for reasons of lacking financial resources. We tackle digital integration here by providing people with an end device. In so doing, we hope to reduce the disadvantages these people face owing to their level of education, age or other socio-economic factors.
There are already a few initiatives wolrdwide, which seek to combat the digital gap. Projects like One Laptop per Child work to make access to the digital world possible for schoolchildren in developing countries. The Open-Source Community makes a great contribution by providing free software. Further,the free distribution of used PCs is relatively established, but these channels are confined largely to developing countries, for example, Linux4 in Africa. There is however an initiative in Germany: PC-for-Kids supports schools by supplying them with used EDV devices donated by companies.
As regards more direct and practical help, there are a few organisations such as the Humanistischen Verband Deutschland, which in conjunction with the Internet-Café for Seniors, “Weltenbummler” offers free courses for seniors multiple times a week. Here they learn about using the internet. Volunteer staff are on hand to answer their questions. Agnes e.V. offers in cooperation with the employment agency, training and other assistance with online material for applications for the unemployed. In Austria, the initiative A1 Internet for all teaches disadvantaged people how to use the Internet, strengthening their abilities to interact with new media. Other companies employ people of disadvantaged backgrounds to build up their online services, giving them an opportunity to strengthen their knowledge of computers while receiving a salaried income.
Low-income earners and those in need need to be led individually to new information and communication solutions, to narrow the digital gap in Germany.
We strongly believe that every person should have equal access to knowledge and education. To cultivate this equality effectively, reaching all levels of society, our initiative helps the people who suffer the most by this digital gap. We want to give those in need access to computers, and hope that this will help them in their everyday lives, giving them improved job opportunities and the like.