Social Inclusion and the Shifting Role of Technology: Is Age the New Gender in Mobile Access?

Publication Type:

IFIP Paper


Social Inclusion: Societal and Organizational Implications for Information Systems, p.203 - 215 (2006)


Information and communication technologies (ICT) are at the heart of government social inclusion policy. However, the “digital divide” remains and social inclusion and technology are closely linked: Not having access to technology is often seen both
as part of the inclusion/exclusion problem and part of the solution by enabling access to information resources through different
channels. Yet, we argue that by using technology to address an inclusion/exclusion problem, it will also result in moving
the problem from one area to another. The arguments in this paper have been informed by two empirical studies around a ubiquitous
technology, the mobile phone. One study is primarily based on the 18 to 25 year old age groups; the other mostly on retired
people. The studies show clear differences between age groups and gender in adoption and use of the mobile telephone.
Social inclusion is multifaceted; it is not an either/or measure and many attributes are subjective and depend on context.
Social inclusion for mobile access is also closely linked to deeply embedded structures within society, such as those traditionally
associated with gender. Technology may be changing these structures; indeed, age may be the new gender. The family or social
unit may also be a useful entity to consider in the exclusion debate. Technology is being used to address social exclusion;
however, we suggest that while some leveling may result, there may also be different social exclusion fronts emerging.

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