The Digital Inclusion Pilot Project in the municipality of Westerkwartier will test a district-driven approach to connecting the unconnected in the Netherlands.
In a rapidly digitizing world, it is not a given that everyone is included. That is why the municipality of Westerkwartier (located in the north of the Netherlands), Freedom Internet, Alliantie Digitaal Samenleven, and 48percent.org, the foundation established by Voys, started a pilot project to provide the Digital Inclusion Support Package.
“Research shows that an estimated two and a half million people face difficulties when using digital devices”, Pollien van Keulen explains, pilot project leader on behalf of 48percent.org. Offline facilities and services are gradually being replaced by digital alternatives. Examples can be found within tax services, education, and the health care sector. “If you look at the bigger picture, you’ll notice a growing inequality of opportunity as a consequence of digitization. That is why it is important to close the digital divide.”
Closing the digital divide requires a comprehensive approach. That is why Westerkwartier municipality, Freedom Internet, Alliantie Digitaal Samenleven, and 48percent.org have joined forces. Together, through this pilot project, they offer affordable internet connection for homes, laptops, along with the skills and assistance to be able to utilize it. Over the course of the coming year, the project partners will work with 50 households in the Westerkwartier municipality to assess the effectiveness of a district-driven approach. Next to this, they are researching how this pilot project can been expanded nationally.
The project partners have worked on this pilot project since 2021. Pollien van Keulen: “We recently finalized the last preparations, which means that we are looking forward to welcoming the first participants.” The pilot project is part of a national project initiated by Alliante Digitaal Samenleven. Besides Westerkwartier municipality, Utrecht municipality is also participating and the municipality of Amsterdam is exploring the possibilities of participating. The Center for Digital Inclusion at the University of Twente will be monitoring the effect and the results of the initiative.
48percent.org was established in 2019 by telecom provider Voys to close the digital divide. Voys is a meaningful company attentive to the impact it has on society. Every year, the company donates one percent of its revenue to 48percent.org. Pollien van Keulen is the coordinator of the foundation. “The use of internet has the potential to stimulate equality”, she explains. “That is also the goal we are pursuing with the Digital Inclusion Support Package.”