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Discussion Details

Digital Societies, Digital Inclusion


The European Basic Skills Network is announcing an online discussion on digital inclusion of adults in the framework of the network's Capacity Building Series. The discussion is scheduled to start on 6 March, 2019 9:00 (CET) and be finalised on 7 March, 2019 17:00 (CET) and its experiences are aimed at contributing to the EBSN's forthcoming open education resource (OER) in the theme of digital inclusion.


In the framework of the current thematic focus on EPALE, issues related to digitalisation and adult learning have been targeted from a number of different approaches. There are at least two clearly distinguished foci in this matter: 

  • the utilisation of digital materials, applications, and devices as tools that facilitate and enhance all forms for learning, including basic literacy skills for adults, (see Graciela Sbertoli’s comments on digital tools for initial literacy),
  • the improvement of basic digital skills for social inclusion, which addresses the importance of the digital component in functional literacy and poses the challenge of digital divide.

By addressing the former approach (i.e. digital tools to develop basic skills) one finds a number of useful input in a previous online discussion on the use of digital tools in the provision of initial literacy and numeracy training and of language provision for immigrants. The latter approach brings up the issue of citizens with less developed digital skills becoming more and more marginalised in societies. David Mallows mentions in his blog post on the Digital Inclusion Pathway that

„As the online world encroaches ever further on the physical world we should pay great attention to digital inclusion – ensuring that each member of society is able to engage effectively with the riches of the digital world.”

In many countries the growing extent to which public services e.g. banking, public administration, taxation, etc. are becoming digitalised creates a challenge to citizens who are less digitally competent to fall behind and become more isolated and vulnerable.


Participants are encouraged to share their experiences and thoughts on the following questions:

  1. Who in your experience are the most vulnerable when it comes to ’e-services’ in societies and what are the major challenges?
  2. What programs do you know that specifically aim at including citizens with less sufficient digital skills (e.g. the elderly) into digitalised public services (e.g. e-governance systems)?
  3. What are the success criteria of any national program aiming at fighting the digital divide?

The discussion will open 9:00-17:00 CET, from 6 to 7 March.


The Capacity Building Series of EBSN provides free open educational resources (OERs) and massive online courses (MOOCs) through EPALE, to help the implementation of the European Commission recommendations on Upskilling pathways in EU Member States. EPALE is funded by the Erasmus+ programme, as part the European Commission’s ongoing commitment to improving the quality of adult learning provision in Europe. The project is implemented with the support of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
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Latvia's State Forest company is now Launching an EU Fund Project on Developing Digital Learning Tools for schools. This is an important step in developing a partnership between the forest industry and schools. Latvia is among the first EU Member States to develop a National Bioeconomy Strategy for the period up to 2030, which pays special attention to increased use of renewable resources and adequate education. These nationally defined goals are also reflected in the new standard of basic education in the field of science competences, as well as transversal competences for the development of student entrepreneurship. However, there is currently a lack of methodological and teaching materials in schools to ensure that school students acquire competences in sustainable forestry. The project will offer solutions to this problem.
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Meaningful and successful personal and professional life of today and the future requires the person’s ability to adjust to the constantly changing environment, the ability and inclination to constructively react to changes, act in accordance with constantly renewing and increasing information. The ICT are very useful here, but we need to able to learn, more exactly to manade our learning; therefore, the idea of lifelong learning is raised as one of the most important educational aims and one of the essential expected outcomes. Learning to learn is understood as the person’s wish and readiness to take up new tasks, the ability to control cognitive and emotional processes while learning and apply acquired abilities in various contexts. for this purpose we also could use ICT. 
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Webinar with Henrique Lopes and Leona English about “How adult education can save your life”
In 2019 the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) and DVV International continue to build global dialogue, support an exchange of ideas and critical reflection on highly relevant topics in adult education and development. This includes a virtual seminar discussing the “Role and Impact of Adult Education”, following the latest edition of DVV International´s journal Adult Education and Development (AED) with the same topic. 
you can access the paper from Henrique @ 
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I would like to share some great initiatives as part of the Erasmus+ adult education programme (Key Action 1) from organisations like Atempo GmbH "Inclusive Education on the Move" and "Inclusive Education with Tablets" and Lebenshilfe Salzburg "Better lives through person centred Technology".
More Information can be found on EPALE: 
Best wishes from Austria, 
Christoph Sackl
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Dear Participants,
Welcome back to the discussion. We continue with digital inclusion programs. Have you come across any initiatives that specifically aim at including citizens with less sufficient digital skills (e.g. the elderly) into digitalised public services (e.g. e-governance systems)?
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Good morning! Happy to join the discussion from Lithuania.
New technologies and digitalization is a very relevant issue nowadays and a challenge for the society. On the one hand, we are happy to live in smart cities and use the benefits of new digital initiatives (such as digital banking, digital administration etc.), on the other - innovations and rapid technological progress brings a lot of confusion for some people and cause unwillingness and even resistance to use them. 
I work with adults as an adult educator (professional development sector) and we often discuss the challenges of digitalization. Adult learners (regardless of their age and profession) admit that they feel themselves confused and stressed when they are forced to change traditional ways of doing things to new digital ones. They say that they perfectly understand that all these digital innovations are good and are aimed at simplifying our lives. But when it comes to trying them there appear some problems. First, insufficient skills of using new digital approaches; second, mistrust with technologies; third, dependence on smart devices etc. Adults recognize the demand for digital innovations but they stress that they need more time to get used to them.
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Thank you all for your reflections on the relevant target group! I would like to encourage the discussion to move on to potential programmes and initiatives aiming specifically at inclusion.
For a start, it might be worth looking at how the EU works along the field of eGovernance and the digitalisation of public services. 
In general,
As for eGovernance and digital public services,
  • A broad overview of the interlinked initiatives are presented on the e-government policy site of the Digital Single Market strategy, where one of the key document is also accessible: the eGovernment Action Plan of 2011-2015.
Do you know of any programmes/initiatives in your country (or professional context) aiming at digital inclusion of adults with less developed digital skills?
Are these programmes connected to the EU's eGovernment initiatives?
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I think that, as with all adult learning, the context of use is key. However, often people who do not use digital tools, do not know what they could use them for. In a blog last year I introduced the term Digital Taste from the Digital Inclusion Pathway developed by Steve Reder. He defined the Digital Taste stage of the pathway as being about helping people to see the benefits that engagement with digital tools could bring them:
Here they must decide whether they actually want to use a computer and for what purpose. And it is here that many initiatives fall down – there’s no point in providing an adult with access to a machine if they have no desire to use it. We probably all know an elderly relative who has been given a laptop or an iPad in the expectation that they will start to send email rather than letters or keep in touch via Skype rather than a landline. Instead, the expensive gadget gathers dust in the corner despite much patient coaching by the younger generation. Others, of course, soon see the benefits and once they have got this ‘taste’ for digital, the next step, learning how to use it, becomes more meaningful.
Once people have a 'taste' for digital, their motivation to learn how to use digital tools increases and sustainable success is more likely.
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Hello to all of you
I agree, those with low levels of literacy are the most vulnerable target groups. The use of ICT should, if appropriate, be an integral part of every learning offer, driven by the context of use. What do people want and need to do every day? Situated learning is key to a useful learning experience for the target group, aiming at influencing daily practice and capability to act.
The competencies of the trainers is the most relevant ingredient to the successful implementation of this concepts of learning. There is less to be planned, more flexibility and participation. This is new to the target group in the beginning, but autonomy grows with the opportunity and a good leadership providing space for action.
 Best regards
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Good morning and happy to participate from Portugal.
I agree in general with Graciela and feeling the same with ageing...would i be able to deal with robots in my daily life in the next (short) years?
Digitalising e-governance services is being fast as we demand but not aware of the consequences of lefting behind people. We mustn´t be happy with alternatives of having someone from our local authorities doing the forms or whatever? This brings other forms of problems.
In Learning i'm specially concerned about schools in earlier years. Teachers are not skiiled about cibersecurity and usage of internet devices. Digital skills must start the earliest possible (children are born with digital devices nearby...) in a Lifelong Learning perspetive and terminate with life ending.
Another issue concerning all this new world of things is that there is not enough money (budget), at least for the poorest countries,  for doing what must be what must be done as first...and the next?! without a vision, difficulties increase.
In my country call your attention for this national programme: 
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5 ACTION LINES INCoDe.2030- the first one is on INCLUSION.
Another initiative taking place on MOOCs is: Project “NAU – Ensino e Formação a Distância para Grandes Audiências” aims to develop skills on public sector trough distance learning. - To learn and to write code. Private sector.
Next week we will promote two initiatives (By (civil society platform-Casa da Cidadania) and (association for informtaion society development)
1. Workshop PASC “Administração Aberta: Um desafio para o Estado e para a Sociedade” 13 Março | 09:00 - 13:00
2. Tertúlia-Debate “Administração Aberta: Um desafio para o Estado e para a Sociedade” – 15 de março
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Good morning Etelberto and welcome to the discussion!
Thank you for your comment. I agree that the fast-paced IT innovations in the public services pose a challenge to people who should not be left with the option that others in local authorities will take care of things for them. This is a pressing issue from an agency point of view too. The European Commission refers to digital exclusion as a cause for "a series of deteriorations in life paths like poor health, poor lifelong earnings and an increased risk of marginalisation". 
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Good morning, Tamás, and thank you for this opportunity to discuss a very important issue.
I think digital inclusion is a challenge involving many different types of adults. The digital development is progressing so quickly that few of us will be exempt from feeling that "it's all getting a bit much". Especially as we grow older!
Obviously the most vulnerable target group for digital inclusion are adults who lack a basic level of literacy - and Europe does still have a considerable amount of adults in that category. 
The elderly are also very much at risk of not being able to adjust to speedy digital development in our societies. Among them there will be different groups - persons who never have used ICT before, those  who have a very low level of digital competence, etc.
I used to think that we who became knowledgeable users of ICT in the 80s and 90s would by now feel we did not have any problem, but I am beginning to doubt that! 
The challenge is to develop ICT training that prepares people for further digital development. Too many ICT courses stop at the level of what I call "user instructions" - first you do this, then this and then this. The objective of the courses needs to be giving the target group a real understanding of how ICT tools and devices worrk. And to do that we need to train the trainers. Which is another issue! :-)
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Good morning Graciela
isn't the context in which we use and need ICT the most important driver for learning? 
The most relevant question then might be: "What do I want to do?" or "What do I have to do?" and which technologies do I need for that purpose.
Areas of application would then be mobility and traveling, banking, paying, shopping, communicating with friends and family, working, organising and praticipating in social life, paying taxes, changing address online, searching for information, taking care of my data, privacy and security while online etc.
So I am reflecting, what kind of learning opportunities (courses) do we need to provide for individual learning interests and needs. Would I go to a course with an open format where I bring my own device and work on tasks that are challenging me personally? In that course I would get support of a tutor and/or other participants? This could be interesting but challenging for providers to provide.
We do not all face the same challenges. If literacy is at a low level, the courses need to be diffferent, yes, but for the general public with sufficient levels of literacy, such a course as described above could be useful.
What do you think?
Best regards
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I do so agree with you, Cäcilia! Relevance is probably the most important success factor for any adult learning scheme, and the type of open courses you suggest would be excellent, I think - although maybe quite challenging for the trainer if the group is large. What I am concerned about, though, is that learning cannot stop at the point where the adult knows how to deal with all the apps he/she is in need of at the moment. If inclusion is to be sustainable, we need to go further and create an understanding, a capacity to continue learning how to cope with any new development this speedy industry is "throwing at us". Although devices are getting more and more user friendly all the time, their complexity is increasing ten times more than their userfriendliness. Just think of how easy it used to be to turn on your TV... :-)
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Yes, the use of ICT is just one aspect and perhaps the one to deal with more easily.
More relevant does it seem to me to be able to understand the consequences of the ongoing developments. What are algorithms doing and how are they influencing decision making and thus shaping our lives as well as the functioning of our societies.
What consequences will arise from artificial intelligence?
Who owns personal data? Is it the state, the company or the individual? How to raise awareness about this important decision to be taken in the very near future?
What are the consequences for citizenship, for democracy, for the way we live, learn and work? And how can we influence/shape the ongoing developments?
What is the role of adult education in this respect? Talking about the use of digital media seems to be very short sighted when it comes to the overall changes induced by technological developments.
How shall we cope with this?
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Yes, adult education needs to look beyond equipping people with the skills to be passive consumers in the digital world. There is also a great need for people to understand, for example the implications of sharing personal data and the other things that you mention Celia. I'm not sure that they need to be done in the same way or at the same time or even with the same target group (some of the most sophisticated users of digital tools are the most ignorant of the unseen consequences).
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Dear all,
Thank you for starting this interesting discussion! I do very much agree with what has be stressed by Cäcilia and Graciela about the importance of relevance and contextualisation for learning offers in the field of digital inclusion and adult learning schemes in general.
Now here is my question: 
We run basic education courses on a digital platform ( And yes, it seems obvious to offer a course on digital literacy/inclusion on a digital platform. 
But how can one create a context for action and relevance here?
This is not difficult with regard to the functionalities of our own learning platform, but can other services or questions such as data security on the Internet etc. be dealt with meaningfully in a course on a learning portal? What would be your approach?
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Good morning, Graciela!Thank you for your comment. I also agree that one of the vulnerable groups in society is the elderly. There is an initiative directly addressing this target group to improve social participation, mobility and generally keeping people active. The programme is called "Ageing Well in the digital world".
It would be interesting to see more of these initiatives.
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Dear All,Welcome to the current event on digital inclusion. The discussion is now open for reflection and your contribution. Although moderation will close at 17:00 CET, you are free to post a comment after this time. To begin with, we would be interested in what you see as main challenges to the digitalising e-governance services and who in your experiences are the most vulnerable in this matter?
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