National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Norway
The digitalization of modern society leads to unprecedented growth in digital devices/services aimed at the general population. Digital participation is increasingly equated with traditional participation as digitalisation permeates all sectors of life. Consequently, political pressure intensifies to secure adequate competence and equal access to the information society to prevent a “digital divide”. The fear of excluding vulnerable social groups permeates political agendas, and the Norwegian digital agenda aims to halve the number of non-users of Internet by 2017. The paper is positioned in this debate. It draws on two recent studies; a literature review confirming that the elderly have the highest proportion of non-users and low-competence users in the population. Based on this, we devised a national survey in late 2014, including a representative selection of older citizens (61-100 years). The survey is unique in that those between 81-100 years are included (usually omitted from official European/Norwegian statistics). The survey questions relate to digital access, use, management, motivations, barriers and non-use. The data are discussed in light of theories on digital skills/digital divide. The primary focus on access when determining level of digital participation is problematized; although the access divide is diminishing, the digital divide gets deeper and more multifaceted due to widening relative gaps in skills needed to operate, understand, evaluate and produce digitally. Consequently, the paper claims that a relational perspective of inequality is fruitful (particularly regarding the elderly). Here, categorical differences between groups of people are emphasized, which are seen to potentially cause unequal participation in society.