Increasing reliance on digital technologies in all fields of life risks leaving behind people who are unfamiliar with or do not have full access to all the necessary tools, exacerbating existing inequalities in society and creating new ones. Calling on States to take comprehensive measures to close the digital divide, the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination today highlighted the importance of deploying networks and policies that enable everyone to access the internet “regardless of gender, age, social status, economic situation, disability and any other personal characteristic”.
Unanimously adopting a draft resolution based on a report by Edite Estrela (Portugal, SOC), the committee called on States to prioritise policies to close the digital divide and to focus on “making digital technologies, tools and services inclusive, equitable, accessible, affordable and safe for all”. This includes providing support to local initiatives that aim to accomplish these goals and ensuring that policies to combat the digital divide are accompanied by adequate funding and subject to regular scrutiny by national parliaments.
The committee underlined that authorities have a special responsibility in this area when they set about digitalising public services, as such measures may deprive people who do not have ready access to digital technologies of access to their rights. It therefore urged States “to move from a logic of 100% digital public services to a logic of 100% accessibility of these services” and to take into account “the needs of and obstacles faced by all potential users of [public] service[s], in order to guarantee equal access for all”.
Finally, the committee urged the States to take into account in development aid measures the importance of “reducing the digital divide as a means of facilitating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.