(ITU, 2022; Geostat, 2022)
(ITU, 2022; Government of Ukraine, 2021)
- 76% of people use the Internet
- Rate of access to internet is 91% in cities, 78.9% in rural areas
- 60% in lowest scoring areas
- 75% of people use the Internet
- 35% of all rural residents have no possibility to access the Internet via fixed broadband
- 53% of Ukrainians have below basic levels of digital skills
Acceleration in the deployment of digital and technological solutions across all sectors of the economy and society may pose further risks to vulnerable citizens, creating and widening the digital divide. Where parts of the society already find themselves in a situation of disadvantage, rapid digital development may deepen the gaps between those better positioned to fully reap its benefits, and those who are not.
As defined in this project, Digitally Vulnerable Groups (DVGs) are those whose digital engagement in political decision-making and e-services is hindered by their lack of awareness of digital issues, access to technological benefits, and/or digital literacy and skills. Irrespective of the causes, these barriers prevent some people from reaping the benefits of digital transformation and, as such, have a negative impact on their rights, interests, and everyday life.
Digital transformation brings about distributed benefits to society and the economy. But existing and new conditions of vulnerability in society could halt positive wide-ranging impact. Individuals who might not have previously found themselves at a position of vulnerability, may face new setbacks. And already at-risk groups could see their socioeconomic standing in society worsen.
Objectives of the project
In project DRIVE: Digital Research and Impact for Vulnerable E-citizens, e-Governance Academy teamed up with CSOs and relevant stakeholders in Ukraine and Georgia to:
- aid relevant stakeholders in improving their awareness of digital vulnerability;
- advance skills and cooperation among them to address the needs of digitally vulnerable groups.
The aim is to address and tackle inequalities in access, availability, and usage of online services, in line with the UN recommendations on Sustainable Development Goal 10.
With DRIVE, the vision is for DVGs in Ukraine and Georgia to have a changed quality of life for the better. This can happen by improving their digital engagement in political decision-making and online service usage, with the necessary conditions for it in place – access, awareness, skills.
To that end, public administrations and CSOs must be aware of DVGs’ needs and common challenges, while improving collaboration between them to effectively intervene on the risk of deepening digital divide.
The stakeholders in DRIVE are not citizens themselves, but public administrations and CSOs locally and nationally. DVGs are in the focus beneficiaries of what the project’s vision and objectives aim to achieve.
The project seeks to achieve three key outcomes:
- Public administrations and CSOs are aware of the digital vulnerabilities different societal groups may face, with awareness of their needs and relative gaps in digital literacy and access;
- Public administrations and CSOs are able to cooperate productively and, as a result of that, design responses to the needs and gaps identified in DVGs. Implementing those responses means to bring about a more transparent, accountable, and participatory framework of e-governance;
- Ultimate capacity-building for local partners, to support the reach of the project’s vision and goals beyond the specific scope of the project. This would ensure that DVGs are cared for past the project duration as well, making awareness of DVGs and their needs a salient part of digital policymaking in Ukraine and Georgia.
DRIVE, in conclusion, will give civil society and policymakers better tools to evaluate and address gaps in digital vulnerability. Through sustainable policy formulation and relevant funding, vulnerable groups will achieve social and digital inclusion for years to come.
- Ecosystem-building research
The project kicked off with ecosystem-building research, to shed light on the needs and gaps target groups are set to address. Preliminary studies, carried out by project partners in Ukraine and Georgia, mapped digital maturity levels and blind spots in people’s internet access and habits.
Two full reports on DVGs describe the current situation on the matter in both Ukraine (link) and Georgia (link). They feature an encompassing analysis of existing data and field interviews, with recommendations on how to improve collaboration among relevant stakeholders, and prioritize interventions to tackle disadvantage.
- Training and hands-on activities
Through training and hands-on activities* in mixed formats (online/in person), strategy development and evidence are shared with stakeholders, towards the preparation of a set of action proposals. Based on these activities, the project consortium will facilitate the designing and implementation of one initiative in each country, providing supervision and relevant contributions throughout.
- Establishment of local competence centres
Ultimately, these activities are expected to result in the establishment of local competence centres for supporting and disseminating the project objectives in the region. Increased awareness and solid best practices on tackling digital vulnerability empower local CSOs. In this way, they will be in the position to further engage both DVGs and public administrations in consciously considering these dimensions of digital divide in strategy and policy formulation.
* Project activities in Ukraine pertaining Stage 2 of DRIVE are currently affected by the ongoing territorial invasion of the country by armed forces of the Russian Federation.