Fingal can lead nationally in eradicating digital poverty – Minister Joe O’Brien

20th November, 2020

Speaking at Empower’s Connect & Include event O’Brien noted that digital poverty is a human rights issue

Joe O’Brien, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, today (19th November 2020) addressed the ‘Connect & Include: Why Digital Inclusion is Social Inclusion’ event on Friday 20 November. The event, organised by Empower, the local development company for Fingal, brought together community, statutory and corporate stakeholders to discuss why digital inclusion is key to social inclusion.

Empower, ran the programme with the support of the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) which is funded and overseen by Minister O’Brien. 

Speaking at the online event, Minister O’Brien said:

A key player in the battle against Digital Poverty in Fingal will be the library services. My Department has responsibility of national policy on public libraries and we also provide significant supports in the area of digital inclusion. This year we provided specific funding under our libraries programme for events and programmes which reach out to marginalised, socially excluded and disadvantaged group. This included some supports to Fingal County Council’s ‘Back to School Supports’ programme which aims to support those marginalised by various aspects of Covid-19 and support wellbeing and a return to education.

Minister O’Brien remarked that the drive to make public services as accessible as possible via online platforms was an important one but cautioned that it should not be done at the expense of access to services for the marginalised.

Minister O’Brien continued:

I want to thank Empower for naming Digitial Poverty as a human rights issue. All at once it can be a barrier to education and health and to use the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the right to ‘social security’ the right to ‘rest and leisure’ and the ‘right to participate in the cultural life of the community’.  I also want to commend Empower on the Connect and Include project but particularly on staying connected to the people you serve and to responding to their needs in an innovate way. Good community development work is based on interpersonal relationships, trust and local knowledge and Empower have put them factors to great effect in tackling digital poverty in Fingal. I think Fingal can be a leader nationally in terms of addressing digital poverty.

Connect and Include was launched by Empower as a pilot initiative earlier this year. Following this Empower found that much of the narrative around digital exclusion in recent years has had a focus on older people, but that actually the issue is more complex than that and rather than focusing on age as the principle cause of digital exclusion, as a society, we need to focus on digital poverty.

For more information please contact Karen Power, karen.power@oireachtas.ie

Notes to editor

Digital poverty can be a result of the following factors:

1. Lack of digital skills.

2. Lack of connectivity.

3. Lack of appropriate hardware (ICT equipment).

4. Lack of appropriate software.

Changing the Narrative from Digital Exclusion to Digital Poverty.

Despite strong use of technology across a large base of the Irish population, there remains a digital divide: the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) recorded that, in 2018, 52% of Ireland’s population did not have basic digital skills.

In addition, there is still not universal access to broadband in Ireland: the latest figures from the CSO (2019) show that 9% of households have no internet connection. Of the households with no internet access:

• 42% reported Lack of skills as a reason for not having household internet access.

• 10% cited Access costs too high as the reason.

• Equipment costs too high was cited by 9%.

• 7% reported Broadband internet not available in the area.

Tags: Library