'Connected but Still Excluded? Digital Exclusion beyond Internet Access' by Sofia Ranchordas in M Ienca, O Pollicino, L Liguori, E Stefanini and R Andorno (Eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Life Sciences, Informative Technology and Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2021, Forthcoming) comments
Digital government has digitized numerous public services, automated decision-making, and improved the openness of the public administration. Nevertheless, for senior citizens, undeserved communities, individuals with low literacy and limited digital skills, the shift to governmental portals, online payments, and smartphone applications are considerable obstacles in their daily interactions with public authorities. This chapter argues that digital inequality denies vulnerable citizens their rights twice: first, their ethnicity and socioeconomic status may be conducive to a ‘negative’ ranking or score (e.g., higher risk of welfare fraud); and second, they are also excluded because they do not have adequate access to technology, are not well informed, and do not have the time and skills required to interact with digital government. This chapter explores one of the paradoxes of the digital society: connected citizens in developed countries are also affected by the digital divide and are increasingly being excluded by the generalized digitalization of public services. Drawing on a review of interdisciplinary literature, this chapter contributes to the legal literature with an account of the underlying causes of digital exclusion and a discussion of its most relevant legal implications through the lenses of fundamental rights (e.g., due process, equal treatment) and the principles of good administration. This chapter reflects on potential solutions for more inclusive digital government policies.