Exploring the Outcomes of Digital Inclusion for Vulnerable Populations in Canada during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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  • The Internet is an essential service for participation in society. Yet, digital divide challenges, specifically access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), limit digital inclusion among vulnerable Canadians. While previous research focuses on identifying, understanding, and responding to the digital divide, evaluating the social impact for the “have nots” who gain access to ICT is often overlooked. I explored the social implications of inclusion to the information society through an ICT program for vulnerable individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic through a qualitative approach. Using semi-structured interviews, I purposefully sampled representatives of not-for-profit organizations whose clients participated in an Internet and Devices access program. This was done after I experienced difficulties recruiting participants in these programs due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements. In addition, I used inductive content analysis of interviews to answer the following research question: What do participants in a digital inclusion program for vulnerable populations in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic experience as outcomes of gaining access to information and communication technologies (ICTs)? My findings suggest that according to my interview participants, their clients experienced positive effects related to economic, social, and cultural factors that enhanced quality of life and adverse outcomes resulting from digital literacy issues. I hope that this study will contribute to the emerging body of digital inclusion policy research designed to support the adoption of ICTs in relation to social policy goals.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International