At the beginning of the pandemic, LBS educators in Ontario estimated that just under half of LBS learners (45%) had a household internet connection. Others relied on their cellphones, public Wi-Fi and limited data. When offices and organizations closed their doors and switched to online access, many learners were initially cut off from basic services and support in their communities. Adult educators and program co-ordinators scrambled to help learners meet basic needs. Then, they figured out ways to maintain contact and provide instruction — online, by phone, by mail and using drop-offs. We are inspired by the dedication and ingenuity of frontline educators, many of whom took on new roles and rapidly expanded their digital skill repertoires.
We previously examined the digital divide that exists between those who have affordable access, along with a variety of skills and opportunities to leverage those skills, and those who don’t. Digital inclusion takes this knowledge a step further to propose solutions. The digital divide helps us understand the problems that lead to digital exclusion. A focus on digital inclusion can help to address the issues.
Digital inclusion work needs to happen at both the policy and program levels. At the policy level, AlphaPlus is working on behalf of programs to raise issues. We've developed this playbook to support programs at the local level, whether they're advocating for digital equity within larger institutions and organizations, discussing issues with their employment training consultants (ETCs) or forging their own community partnerships.
Previous AlphaPlus report on the digital divide and our renewed focus on digital inclusion
In February 2020, we released a report exploring the digital divide. We knew many learners struggled with reliable and affordable connectivity at home, which meant their opportunities and their ability to access basic services was restricted. In addition, the potential of blended learning in LBS programs was limited. We wanted to raise awareness of the issue with funders and potential partners, and then the pandemic hit. When all education sectors switched to remote learning, awareness of the digital divide grew through first-hand experience and the media. Now, two years later, we hope to build on this knowledge by focusing on the actions that can be taken to work towards digital inclusion for all.