Policies and Strategies for Digital Inclusion: Regional Governments in Spain

Policies and Strategies for Digital Inclusion: Regional Governments in Spain

Laura Alcaide Muñoz (University of Granada, Spain), Manuel Pedro Rodríguez Bolívar (University of Granada, Spain) and Francisco José Alcaraz Quiles (University of Granada, Spain)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0047-6.ch001
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Abstract

E-government has enhanced the availability of government information, and expanding access to services, offering greater transparency and accountability for public administrations. However, previous research indicates that there are significant barriers for citizens, assuming major obstacles. In this sense, the EU and, in particular, the Spanish government has formulated policies and legal frameworks to introduce in the field of the provision of public sector services, in order to customize and to access these services. These initiatives seek to promote the development of networks and services, to improve the e-administration and the adoption of digital solutions for efficient delivery of public services, and to promote the inclusion and digital literacy. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to obtain a vision of government strategies adopted by Spanish regional governments to reduce the digital divide.
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Introduction

In the last years, the information and communication technologies (ICT), mainly Internet technologies, have become an incentive for public sector organizations to be more open and to publish information about their performance. The implementation of ICT into public administration has been called e-government (Chadwick, 2006), and it is understood to be one of the forms of expression of the information society, in addition to being a central part of the process of the modernization of public administration (O’Neill, 2010). The opportunities offered by these technologies have been taken by governments with the aim of increasing efficiency, transparency and competitiveness (Zhao and Zhao, 2010). In addition, Internet technologies have allowed governments to enhance the interaction with citizens (Chain Navarro et al., 2008; Estevez and Janowski, 2013), to expand access to public services (Scott, 2006), to improve pubic services (Hodges and Grubnic, 2010) and to make government information available onto the web (Gandía and Archidona, 2008).

Nonetheless, although the use of ICT to provide public services may help alleviate social exclusion (Selwyn, 2002; Sahraoui, 2007), over the years it has also become clear that the information era in itself has generated and reinforced new forms of inequality and exclusion (Chigona and Mbhele, 2008). Significant barriers such as access, service design, personal capacity, trust, skills, willingness, and awareness can create obstacles for the very people who could benefit most from public sector services on the web (Hsieh et al., 2011; Sipior et al., 2011). It has driven that digital divide and e-Inclusion be discussed widely in the information society agenda for nearly a decade since the emergence of e-services in the public sector (Bélanger and Carter, 2009).

In this regard, the European Union and, particularly, the Spanish public administration are formulating public policies and legal frameworks to introduce ICT in the field of public sector service delivery, in order to personalize and to improve the quality of public sector services and access to these services (European Commission, 1999; Spanish Act 11/2007 Electronic Access for Citizens to Public Services). Thus, in the framework of the European Union, many initiatives have been taken to regulate and coordinate the actions of the Member states to facilitate digital convergence and meet the challenges of the Information Society (European Commission, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2010). The concept of e-Inclusion is a basic concept of successive Action Plans of the Information Society of the European Union, up to the i2010 strategy, one of whose main pillars is “promoting an Inclusive Information Society” - in the belief that the lack of access to ICT or inability to use them increasingly constitutes a severe form of social and economic exclusion (European Commission, 2005).

Nowadays, European Commission has presented the European Strategy 2020 –Digital Agenda for Europe 2020- (European Commission, 2015). Its objectives are focused on the growth of the EU, trying to better exploit the potential of ICTs to promote innovation, economic growth and progress. This initiative is made up of seven pillars: achieving the digital single market; enhancing interoperability and standards; strengthening online trust and security; promoting fast and ultra-fast Internet Access for all; investing in research and innovation; promoting digital literacy, skills and inclusion; and ICT-enabled benefits for EU society.

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Government: The platform through which the government (government line ministries, branches and organs) interacts with its citizens and business entities for the sake of exchange of information, public services and participatory democracy through the use of ICT platforms.

E-Inclusion: A social movement whose goal is to end the digital divide, term used to describe the fact that the world can be divided into people who do and people who do not have access to modern information technology (IT). This social movement has the power to: close the gap between developed and less developed countries; promote democracy and mutual understanding; and empower disadvantaged individuals, such as the poor, the disabled, and the unemployed (Norris, 2001; Baxter et al., 1975).

E-Health: The transfer of health resources and health care by electronic means. This means: the delivery of health information, for health professionals and health consumers, through the Internet and telecommunications; using the power of IT and e-commerce to improve public health services, e.g. through the education and training of health workers; the use of e-commerce and e-business in health systems management.

Information Society: According to the EU, Information Society stands for “Information and Communication Technology” (ICTs). This society allows the access to training and knowledge (e-learning), work organization and mobilization of skills (teleworking and virtual companies), practical life (health telecare services) and the leisure. It also creates new opportunities for citizen participation by promoting the expression of opinions and views.

Digital Divide: The world can be divided into people who do and people who do not have access to – and the capability to use – modern information technology, such as the telephone, television, or the Internet. These differences often occur between cities and rural areas, also exists between the educated and the uneducated, between economic classes, and, globally, between the more and less industrially developed nations.

Disabled Person: Any person that has a particular characteristic that disadvantages their ability to fulfill their needs within their community, actively partake in the normal activities of their community, or devalues their identity within their community.

E-Learning: The use of electronic media and information and communication technologies (ICT) in education. It includes numerous types of media that deliver text, audio, images, animation, and streaming video, and includes technology applications and processes such as audio or video tape, satellite TV, CD-ROM, and computer-based learning, as well as local intranet/extranet and web-based learning.

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