Study aimed at informing the Riga Ministerial Conference on e-Inclusion (June 2006) and the Commission’s e-Inclusion Action Plan 2007-2008.
The main objectives of the study are: (i) to review initiatives on and relevant to e-Inclusion and ICT for participation at the level of EU institutions; (ii) to review initiatives on and relevant to e-Inclusion and ICT for participation undertaken outside the context of EU institutions; (iii) to review measurement tools and indicators for e-Inclusion and ICT for participation; (iv) on the basis of these research activities, to make recommendations for future EU action on e-Inclusion and ICT for participation; (v) to develop a prototype of a platform for monitoring, disseminating and exchanging information on e-Inclusion and e-Participation; and (vi) to disseminate the results of the study through a website, appropriate reports and a workshop.
In December 2005, the Information Society and Media Directorate General of the European Commission commissioned a consortium of contractors led by the Tavistock Institute, and including Neteffect and MENON EEIG, to carry out a study on eInclusion. This study was expected to feed into current policy initiatives aimed at supporting the objectives of both the original and revised the Lisbon strategy and in particular the actions on eInclusion and citizenship embodied in successive iterations of the eEurope Action Plan.As such, the study had two main purposes. Firstly, to add to current understandings of how new and complex forms of social structures and relationships associated with the emergent ‘Knowledge Society’ are linked to social exclusion. Secondly, to explore ways of supporting integration between, and adding value to, the range of policies, actions and practices that have developed in the EU to address eInclusion.
The main objectives of the study were to:
• Review eInclusion policies and initiatives within the EU, at trans-national, national, regional and local levels;
• Review measurement tools and indicators for eInclusion;
• Make recommendations for future EU action on eInclusion;
• Make recommendations for future EU action on eInclusion and ICT for participation; and
• Develop a prototype platform for monitoring, disseminating and exchanging information on eInclusion and eParticipation.
Our approach and methodology was defined by the following characteristics:
• A systematic and comprehensive auditing and mapping of the relevant knowledge base, including published material and ‘grey’ literature.
• The mapping and indexing of relevant data using two classification systems: a ‘functional’ classification, and a ‘discursive’ classification.
• A cluster analysis carried out, on the basis of the functional classification, aimed at identifying similarities and differences within and between the examples identified by the mapping exercise in order to derive meaningful clusters that share similar and distinctive features. As a result, we were able to derive a ‘typology’ of eInclusion policies and practices. A second objective of the exercise was to assess the extent to which there is variability in the distribution of the typology across Member States.
• The functional cluster analysis method is supported by ‘cultural logic analysis’. This involved a ‘discursive’ approach aimed at de-constructing the conceptual and theoretical paradigms underlying policies and initiatives, their ‘vision’ of eInclusion and their intended outcomes.
• An analysis of 188 programmes, initiatives and projects initiated in the Member States at the national, regional and local level.Our overall methodological approach was distinctive in that it was characterised by the following guiding principles:
• ‘Sensemaking’ – the domain is complex, contested and rapidly evolving. The study incorporated methods aimed at understanding the relevant political, policy and conceptual perspectives, their similarities and differences, and promoting ‘alignment’ between the different perspectives.
• Evolutionary – a key outcome of the study was to make recommendations for future EU action on eInclusion and ICT for participation. The methodology therefore incorporated an ‘iterative’ approach in which the outputs of each stage of the study were critically reviewed, and the results of the review fed back into successive stages.
• Integrating socio-economic and socio-technical perspectives – the study expanded the focus of eInclusion and eParticipation from ‘disadvantaged groups’ to a broader societal perspective. In doing so, it drew on other related sectors, such as eHealth and eLearning.The work drew on the model developed by Slizard Molnar, which distinguishes three digital divide ‘modes’: (i) an access divide; (ii) a usage divide, and (iii) a ‘quality of use’ divide.
The study produced a number of reports which the Commission is now using to inform its forthcoming eInclusion Action Plan 2008 and current i2010 initiative. Our work on benchmarking indicators has been fed to Eurostat who is the process of developing relevant indicators. On the basis of the above we are in the process of helping the Commission produce best practice benchmarking guidelines in the area of eInclusion. Moreover, on the strength of this project, Dr Joe Cullen, the project Director has been invited to be part of the Commission’s High Level Expert Group on eInclusion. Dr Cullen was also one of the keynote speakers at the Ministerial Conference on e-Inclusion that was held in Riga in June 2006, where he presented the project’s interim findings to Ministers responsible for eInclusion issues across the EU.