Editorial: Digital inclusion in Sweden

In Sweden, we have been talking more and more about digital inclusion over the last few years. One starting signal was when the study “Swedes and the Internet”, compiled yearly by the Internet Infrastructure Foundation and the World Internet Institute, showed that almost twenty percent of Sweden’s residents didn’t use the Internet.

The last thirty years have involved a radical development of access to information, but not everyone has access to the new opportunities, or can use them for other reasons. More and more people are noting that the rapid expansion of esociety can have a downside: that it is becoming more difficult to get access to the services of society and business in the old, usual ways.

This can be seen in a particularly concrete way in libraries. Visitors come in every day asking for help with using the Internet and eservices such as ordering tickets and banking on line. Through their accessibility, public libraries have become an important societal resource; in many towns the library can be the only opportunity for this kind of help and for access to technology.

Volunteers for digital inclusion

The Digidel2013 Campaign started in Sweden in 2011. It’s a network of volunteer organisations, public operations and private companies that together decided to focus on the issue. The libraries were given an important role. The goal of the campaign was to use their joint forces to get at least 500,000 more Swedes to start using the Internet by the end of 2013.

Their motto:
  • digital inclusion is a requirement for a properly functioning democracy
  • all residents of Sweden shall have the opportunity to be digitally included
  •  knowledge of how to do something is important for digital inclusion
  • usability and accessibility for everyone are important factors for digital inclusion
  • the many can help the many to be digitally included
  • digital inclusion is a concern for everyone in society.

Volunteer efforts to meet the need have been numerous and creative. E-workshops, where municipalities and other entities collaborate to offer free guidance, were created in many places.

Operations with young people born and raised outside Sweden as IT guides were started in other places. By helping senior citizens with the Internet, they have the opportunity to practice the Swedish language and also learn more about Swedish society. At the same time, the senior citizens learn how to navigate and use the Internet.

500,000 new Swedes online

In December of last year, we were fortunate to be able to state that the campaign’s goal of getting an additional 500,000 Swedes onto the Internet had been achieved. On the other hand, isolation from the digital world is a problem that remains, and volunteer efforts in the country’s libraries will continue, with or without a campaign.

Head of Department Public Programs Department National Library of Sweden