Falling through the net: implications of digital exclusion

Watling, Sue (2010) Falling through the net: implications of digital exclusion. In: 12th UK Joint Social Work Education Conference with the 4th UK Social Work Research Conference, 30th June - 2nd July 2010, University of Hertfordshire.


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Links between social and digital exclusion are explicit in the UK's Digital Inclusion Action Plan: "...the dividing lines of social equality are closely aligned to those associated with digital exclusion; age, geography, educational attainment, income, motivation and skills, disability, ethnic minority" (2009: 12). As a result, many socially excluded people and communities are shut out from the digital technologies which are starting to "form the backbone of the modern knowledge economy" (2009: 12). The recent Social Work Task Force Report (DCSF 2009) makes several references to the role of technology with clear recognition that good quality ICT supports effective professional practice. However, it fails to make an association between social and digital exclusion and any potential implication for social work practice, with its fundamental value of empowerment and participation, to address digital exclusions.

The unparalleled power of the Internet for communication and information is restricted to those with the means of access. As more central services are provided virtually and users offered financial incentives for online application, so this gap increases and those suffering social and economical disadvantage are falling through the net.

QAA subject benchmarks for social work (QAA 2009) require students to demonstrate ability to "..have a critical understanding of the social impact of ICT, including an awareness of the impact of the digital divide'' but the criteria for demonstrating this is left to individual institutions. This may have the potential for inconsistent understanding of the issues involved.

The presentation will ask if supporting service users in accessing appropriate technologies is a move towards furthering social equity and justice, and as the connections between social and digital exclusion are made, are there potential implications for social work that warrant exploration.

D.C.M.S. 2009. Digital Britain. Communities and Local Government Publications. Retrieved 1 May 2010 (http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/broadcasting/5631.aspx/)
D.C.S.F. 2009. Building a safe confident future; social work task force final report. Retrieved 1 May 2010 (http://publications.dcsf.gov.uk/default.aspx?PageFunction=productdetails&PageMode=publications&ProductId=DCSF-01114-2009
Q.A.A. 2009. Code of Practice Benchmark statements for Social Work. Retrieved 1 May 2010 (http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/benchmark/statements/socialwork08.pdf)

Keywords:digital exclusion, digital inclusion, social work
Subjects:L Social studies > L500 Social Work
Divisions:Professional services > Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute
ID Code:4205
Deposited On:16 Mar 2011 22:39

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