Two in five Belgians are digitally vulnerable

Two in five people in Belgium remain digitally vulnerable, as they never use the internet or lack digital knowledge, according to the new Digital Inclusion Barometer, commissioned by the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF).

The KBF noted that 5 per cent of Belgians never use the internet and another 35 per cent lack digital literacy. "The increasingly rapid digitalisation of our society is not accompanied by an equal increase in digital skills," the foundation said. "Many people, especially those who are also already vulnerable socially, economically and culturally, are still unable to take full advantage of the increasing digitalisation of our society."

According to researcher Koen Ponnet of Ghent University, "it is up to the banks and the government to take their responsibility and ensure that everyone can keep up or get help”. “Not everyone has a network where they can go with questions," he said.

The previous barometer, in 2021, showed that 46 per cent of the population was digitally vulnerable at the time. Although the decrease to 40 per cent this year shows that Belgium is making progress, the country’s score is below the European average and well below the score of its neighbouring countries.

"Not everyone has a network where they can go with questions"

Online safety poses a particular challenge: 28 per cent know nothing about it and ​ a further 30 per cent rate their knowledge as limited. While online crime can have major consequences, only a quarter of Belgians say they worry about their online safety.

The report demonstrates that it is a myth that all young people are digital natives. More than half of low-skilled young people have poor digital skills, compared to 10 per cent among their high-skilled peers. Compared to the previous barometer, that gap has more than doubled.

The KBF says that digital inclusion should continue to be promoted, but also "high-quality alternatives to online services should continue to be offered". These include face-to-face or telephone contacts with authorities and service providers.



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