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Project Spotlight: Digitally Excluded

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European Training Foundation &
International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation


Based in Italy, the European Training Foundation (ETF) is an EU agency that helps EU neighbouring countries to reform their education and training systems, contributing to their social and economic development, as an integral part of the EU external relations policies. The ETF works closely with policymakers in the partner EU neighbouring countries to ensure a coherent policy framework that promotes digital skills for inclusion. As our Collective, their mission is to ensure that the digital transition leaves no one excluded from learning, working and participating in the digital world. 

Consequently, the ETF contributes to the effective integration of digital technologies in education and training. Digital competencies and their development, together with skilling and reskilling, are fundamental aspects of the ETF’s work. They raise awareness and promote the use of different EU tools, such as the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens and the Digital Competence Framework for Educators, to strengthen the quality of education overall. The ETF actively promotes an inclusive digital transformation of lifelong learning systems in their partner countries, bringing digital inclusion to the centre. From digital literacy to inclusive digital online services that ensure all individuals can fully participate in today’s digital society, digital inclusion encompasses many different topics.

Given the pace of digital changes, the EFT believes digital inclusion should be addressed urgently and integrally, and for this reason, they use the concept of “radical digital inclusion”. It needs to be human-centric and integral so that it becomes digital equity. Therefore, the ETF in collaboration with the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (ITCILO) developed the project Digitally Excluded

Recently launched, this initiative’s website proposes a set of challenges to make people feel digitally excluded in different ways, generating empathy with digitally excluded individuals among the website users. Usually, a person acknowledges limitations if he experiences them himself. Therefore, Digitally Excluded’s objective is to invite as many individuals as possible to take this challenge so that they can feel these limitations themselves and, consequently, actively involve them in becoming part of the solution to bridge the digital divide. The challenge is simple: more than 50 years after the Internet appeared, and despite the growing number of devices connected to the web and the many initiatives that have been put in place at international and local levels, many people are still excluded from the benefits offered by digital technologies. This initiative aims at moving the debate to the citizen level, by putting everybody in the shoes of a digitally excludes person.

Through the interactive site, users can directly experiment with how difficult it is to solve simple problems like a web search if some exclusion dimensions exist. Through a gamified approach, users have to solve four challenges corresponding to four kinds of digital exclusion: 


  1. Language effect: The language barrier determines how much information a user can access and understand on the Internet, certainly affecting his web experience. 
  2. Connectivity gap: Access to the Internet alone does not guarantee proper connectivity. Without the right infrastructure, individuals cannot meaningfully access online knowledge, falling into a connectivity gap that brings about inequality.
  3. Cognitive barriers: The use of digital services is influenced by cognitive abilities such as comprehension. This challenge gives visibility to a large number of people with cognitive barriers that experience limited online engagement.
  4. Visual impairment: According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.2 billion people globally are visually impaired or blind – this means that billions of people face difficulties navigating the web.


By taking these four challenges, and by failing most of them, users are not only encouraged to reflect on the issue of digital exclusion but are forced to experiment with what it means to have exclusion issues when using digital technologies. The overall experience lasts no more than five minutes, and at the end of every challenge, some reflections and data are presented to raise awareness of the urgency of closing the digital divide. These challenges affect millions of people daily, who are totally or partially excluded from the benefits of digital technologies. Digital inclusion means leaving no one behind in this radical digital transformation, and for doing so effective inclusive policies and actions need to be taken for all these digitally vulnerable groups. 

When university students used the Digitally Excluded platform at its launch in Turin, most of them failed the current four challenges and felt disappointed, serving the purpose of its creation: to make people reflect on exclusion in a broader sense, shifting the digital inclusion discussion from focusing mostly on infrastructure and equipment to a deeper level around accessibility.  The Digitally Excluded initiative stresses the need to reflect on how inclusion applies to each individual. 

DigiCo is joining the Digitally Excluded project as a community partner because we actively advocate for the digital inclusion of marginalised communities in Europe. We believe this innovative approach can foster new discussions around digital inclusion, and we seek to be the voice of those currently digitally excluded. That is why we invite you to take the challenge and put yourself in the shoes of those who face digital challenges every day: 

To foster more inclusive digital societies and cultures, the ETF and the ITCILO have been collaborating on digital inclusion starting with the Digital Inclusion Summit in July 2021, which resulted in the publication “4 to 42 – A digital inclusion handbook“. This also evolved into a series of outreach events with the European Commission and local universities to raise awareness and visually showcase the issue through a poster exhibition. Different resources for developing inclusive websites and digitally inclusive education and training can be found on the Digitally Excluded website.