Project investigating how digital inequalities persist despite increased technological access post-pandemic

The spread of technology has largely increased in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. One only has to think of the use of video chat systems or the use of streaming film platforms, which have grown enormously in recent years. However, we do not know whether this growth has affected all households in the same way. In fact, social distancing measures have affected the entire population, but it was assumed that tech adoption has increased within the home as a result of, for example, the adoption of smartworking.

‘We wanted to analyse whether there is a relationship between household non-adoption of technology and economic status, looking at what kind of relationship it is for households reporting economic hardship,’ explained Claudia Zola, an assignee at the University of Milan during the presentation of the project analysing changes in household digital adoption following the pandemic.

‘We assigned two models,’ continues Zola. “One basic one where we try to estimate the general relationship and one we look at whether this digitisation has involved all social strata. The variables are lack of access to the internet and lack of a device such as a computer.” The analysis was developed in six European countries.

The results claim that there is indeed a significant relationship between lack of technological access and digitisation of households and economic status. As a result of Covid there was an increase in digitisation that reduced the differences, but for households in economic difficulty this increased exponentially. ‘Internet adoption for these cases has increased by almost 10 per cent while on computer purchase there is almost no increase at all, this is due to the fact that these technologies bring very different needs’. Dr. Zola argues that ‘the purchase of a computer comes from work needs, the slight increase is due to both job changes and the fact that the household was forced to change its working status. For poor households this effect is not there because digitisation is due to high skill education typical of those who are not in economic difficulty’.

The project ‘Technology access for poor households in six European countries after Covid-19 pandemic crisis’ stood out for its analytical rigour and the considerable relevance of the issues addressed with regard to the digitisation of the weakest population groups. For this reason, it was awarded at the third MUSA General Meeting in the category ‘Digital transformation’.