What is digital inclusion?

Digital inclusion might mean different things to different people. But generally, it is defined by people being able and feeling confident to access services, information and goods online. There are lots of reasons why someone might not be digitally included:

  • An inability to afford the internet or data

  • Lack of equipment such as laptops or smartphone

  • Lack of skill or confidence around using the internet

  • Poor accessibility for disabled people


Accessing the internet is becoming an essential part of day-to-day life for most people. It is the gateway through which many people apply for benefits, search for jobs or homes, access education and order prescriptions. Lack of access to the internet prevents people from accessing important information and services, and leads to some people being unable to meet their basic needs.

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Here is a video from Denise at Inclusion North explaining a little more about digital inclusion and the Better ConNEcted campaign:

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Digital inclusion and human rights

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Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that every person in the world has from birth to death, simply because they are a human being.


Human rights are protected by law in the UK. While many people are familiar with civil and political rights such as Freedom of Speech, there is another set of rights that are equally important. These are economic and social rights (ESR) which are the essential conditions needed to live a life of equality, dignity and freedom. They include the right to work and workers’ rights, social security, health, education, food, water, housing and an adequate standard of living. They are day-to-day rights that affect us from when we wake up in the morning to when (even where) we go to sleep at night.


The UK has recognised the importance of human rights by signing up to various international treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Among other things, this document says that governments must:

  • Respect rights - not prevent people from enjoying them

  • Protect rights - not allow others to prevent people from enjoying them

  • Fulfil rights - take measures to move towards full realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. 

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Although digital inclusion is not considered a human right, internet access is quickly becoming as essential to daily life as food, water, and social security.

Look at each of the rights in the image below and think about how digital inclusion impacts the way you are able to realise these rights? In fact, for those who have consistent and reliable access to the internet, it is very difficult to imagine realising one's social rights without using the internet.


Hover over each icon for an example (not available on mobile):

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'I renewed my prescription online.'

'My child researched dolphins online for a school project'

'I looked up a new recipe and I was able to use up lots of food that would otherwise have been wasted!'


'I took a virtual tour of  The Baltic and now I am doing an art project with my children.'

'I had a problem with my water bill and chatted with someone online. They helped me fix it!'

'I check job sites online every day online for new postings. I can even add my CV  to let employers contact me!'

''I applied for Universal Credit online. I use the internet to report any changes using my online journal.'

'I was paying too much in rent and used the internet to find a spare room in a much cheaper flat.'