Sunday, October 2, 2022

Digital inclusion: what is being done for vulnerable members of society?

As the wave of digital transformation carries us to exciting new heights of progress in business and personal development, industries must stop to consider the challenges of digital access faced by more vulnerable groups in society.

In this era of rapid technological advancements, enterprises are realizing the need for greater initiatives to encourage growth and participation of all customers, so that no one is left behind. “It’s time for the mobile industry to take steps to ensure our products and services are accessible, unlocking the power of connectivity so that all people thrive,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.

GSMA driving digital inclusion

Industry organization GSMA has launched the “Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities” aiming at encouraging the mobile industry to help close the mobile disability gap.

The industry has developed guidelines with the help of disability and accessibility experts and mobile operators, outlining three regulations to increase digital inclusion for disabled people. These principles have been devised to ensure disability inclusion is adopted at every level of an organization, identifying how to reach and serve people with disabilities and delivering inclusive products and services.

One of the solutions proposed is to combine multiple assistive technologies in a single device, making mobile phones cost-effective tools to facilitate inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities.

However, persons with disabilities are less likely to own smartphones and use mobile internet than persons without disabilities, according to a research by GSMA. The World Health Organization (WHO) also estimates that 80% of persons with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which presents long-term challenges for initiatives that aim to break digital access barriers in under-resourced settings.

Innovation to help serve people with disabilities

In addition, some of the ways for an organization to reach and serve communities include collecting and analyzing data to better understand how disabled customers are using services. Conducting frequent consumer research to find out if the services are meeting the needs of customers with disabilities.

According to GSMA, several other options are present to enhance the access for disabled people and increase the chances of accessing digital platforms by developing handsets focusing on content, as well as creating products and services that are affordable and accessible to all. “Putting provisions in place such as customer service advisors trained in teaching customers how to use such devices as potential ways to ensure the delivery of inclusive products and services.”

Closing the digital access gap is no easy feat; it requires collective collaboration and long-term planning from governments and industries alike. GSMA-driven initiatives will help raise awareness, reduce inequalities and drive change.