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"Please Mind the Grey Digital Divide": An Analysis of Digital Public Policies in Light of the Welfare State (Sweden and Greece)
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8391-5606
2022 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines the grey digital divide and digital policies in the divergent welfare regimes of Sweden and Greece. The grey digital divide is a serious problem not only for the individual but also for society. The grey digital divide signifies the inability of older people to utilize digital technology. In academic circles, the emphasis is mostly on the technological aspects of the grey digital divide or on the individual characteristics of older people as (non)users of digital tools. However, the problem is more complex in nature and is interconnected with the aging process and experience. 

The grey digital divide has multiple levels: the first concerns access, the second skills, and the third opportunities. This thesis concentrates mostly on the third level of digital divide because it touches on the welfare denominator. This particular level describes the encounters that older citizens need to have with the digital welfare state and the obstacles that they might face in doing this. Older digital “offliners” cannot take advantage of the welfare services that they need for their own well-being and cannot participate as equal citizens in digital space, which is expanding on a daily basis with new digital services.

This thesis is situated in the discipline of political science and draws on various disciplines, such as political science (welfare regime theory, neo-institutionalism, and path-dependency), public policy (active aging paradigm), gerontology (disengagement), sociology (exclusion via the digital-by-default approach), and ICT studies (the phenomenon of digitalization and the third-level of the digital divide). The thesis is a compilation of papers and consists of two qualitative case studies, a comparative study, and a scoping literature review. The key findings are as follows: 1) older people are a heterogeneous group and this applies in the digital world as well, with the appearance of heterogeneous digital profiles; 2) the welfare regime seems to affect the manifestation of the grey digital divide and there is a path-dependency pattern in this; 3) the more digitalized a society, the greater the chance that older people not using technology will be excluded from the digital and social spheres; and 4) digital policies indicate the priorities of every society and how older people are perceived as a social group.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro University , 2022. , p. 126
Series
Örebro Studies in Political Science, ISSN 1650-1632 ; 46
Keywords [en]
grey digital divide, welfare regimes, digital public policies, digital technologies, older people
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-102757ISBN: 9789175294810 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-102757DiVA, id: diva2:1719956
Public defence
2023-01-20, Örebro universitet, Forumhuset, Hörsal F, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Fel ISSN-nr är angivet i den tryckta versionen av avhandlingen, 1651-1328.

Available from: 2022-12-16 Created: 2022-12-16 Last updated: 2023-02-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The portrait of older people as (non) users of digital technologies: A scoping literature review and a typology of digital older (non) users
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The portrait of older people as (non) users of digital technologies: A scoping literature review and a typology of digital older (non) users
2020 (English)In: Gerontechnology, ISSN 1569-1101, E-ISSN 1569-111X, Vol. 19, no 3, p. 1-15Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: The images of older people while using (or not) technology is a theme that plays a crucial role not only in the implementation of policies, but also in the design of e-services or more broadly e-governance. Older people is a complex and a non-homogenous group that requires public (welfare) services which in many cases have been moved to a digital interface. The real challenge is to provide these services without excluding anyone.

Objective: This paper aims to investigate how older people are represented as (non)users of technology in the digital literature and public discourse and to produce a typology of older digital users based on the work of Schneider and Ingram (1993). Method: The study followed established methods for a scoping literature review to discover the profile of older digital (non) users and their relationship with technology. Results: Based on this literature review, two positive profiles of different power were found: the silver surfers or “athletes” who are proficient digital users and the “older people with borrowed access” to digital technologies who are less powerful and independent while using technology. On the other hand, we also found some negative images of older adults: the “laidback” who are reluctant to use digital technologies but they have the necessary intellectual capacity to acquire IT skills on their own (strong in terms of power). The biggest group entails older people as technophobic, non-users, want-nots, digitally backward/internet laggards, digital immigrants, needy and those who are unaware of their digital condition.

Conclusion: This research could offer a substantial contribution to policy-makers and public servants to provide better and friendlier online services, digital tools and applications in conjunction with the supply of IT courses for older individuals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
International Society for Gerontechnology, 2020
Keywords
Grey digital divide, older people, ICTs, internet, public policy
National Category
Humanities and the Arts Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-87075 (URN)10.4017/gt.2020.19.003.11 (DOI)
Available from: 2020-11-02 Created: 2020-11-02 Last updated: 2022-12-27Bibliographically approved
2. The grey digital divide and welfare state regimes: a comparative study of European countries
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The grey digital divide and welfare state regimes: a comparative study of European countries
2022 (English)In: Information Technology and People, ISSN 0959-3845, E-ISSN 1758-5813, Vol. 35, no 8, p. 273-291Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: Technology access, digital skills, and digital services are increasingly prerequisites for public life and accessing public services. The digital divide in contemporary societies matters for efforts to digitalize the welfare state. Research has already mapped individual determinants of digital exclusion and the existence of an age-related digital divide. However, far less attention has been paid to variations in digital inclusion between countries and to their potential explanations related to political systems. This study explores the influence of variations in welfare regimes on the digital divide among seniors (aged 65+) in Europe.

Design/methodology/approach: This article presents time-series cross-sectional analyses of the relationship between welfare state regimes and digital inclusion among seniors in European countries. The analyses are based on data from Eurostat, the World Bank, and the UN E-Government Survey.

Findings: The authors find extensive variation in the digital inclusion of citizens between welfare regimes and argue that considering regime differences improves the understanding of these variations. The findings indicate that the age-related digital divide seems to be least evident in countries with more universalistic welfare regimes and most evident in countries where seniors rely more on their families.

Originality/value: This is the first comparative study of the association between welfare state regimes and digital inclusion among seniors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2022
Keywords
Digital divide, Digital inclusion, Seniors, Welfare regimes
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-100215 (URN)10.1108/ITP-11-2020-0803 (DOI)000828217000001 ()2-s2.0-85134625977 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2022-07-24 Created: 2022-07-24 Last updated: 2022-12-27Bibliographically approved
3. How the Responsibility of Digital Support for Older People is Allocated? The Swedish Welfare System at the Crossroads
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How the Responsibility of Digital Support for Older People is Allocated? The Swedish Welfare System at the Crossroads
2022 (English)In: Research on Ageing and Social Policy, ISSN 2014-6728, Vol. 10, no 1, p. 48-76Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A great welfare challenge today is to promote opportunities for greater digitalization, while limiting social inequalities from digital divides, especially for older people. While the digital divide is a dynamic problem, shifting from physical access to skills and usage, public policies to close the divide do not necessarily follow. This study explores who is providing digital support in Sweden by looking at three institutions: (1) the municipal eldercare system, (2) popular education institutions, and (3) the family. The results show that the Swedish policy relies heavily on popular education and family arrangements, leaving many young-old Swedes in need of digital support without public support, while the opposite occurs for very old Swedes who are mostly consumers of welfare technologies. Issues of dependency or the other way around arise. Given this, the role of the Swedish welfare state, which sets the tone of the Swedish welfare regime,needs to be re-evaluated, especially in light of the demographic challenge (a growing number of older people).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Hipatia Press, 2022
Keywords
ageing, digital divide, digital inclusion, welfare regime
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-96887 (URN)10.17583/rasp.8883 (DOI)000752470100002 ()
Available from: 2022-01-31 Created: 2022-01-31 Last updated: 2022-12-27Bibliographically approved
4. Borrowed Access: The Grey Digital Divide Meets the Familialist Welfare Model of Greece
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Borrowed Access: The Grey Digital Divide Meets the Familialist Welfare Model of Greece
2020 (English)In: The Journal of Aging and Social Change, ISSN 2576-5310, Vol. 10, no 1, p. 15-33Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Worldwide, there is a debate on growing aging populations and how to help them remain active and independent forlonger. Digitalized societies offer, among other things, a range of online welfare services that virtually eliminate the distanceand delays between the state machinery and citizens. Aged people can benefit greatly from these online services, completingbureaucratic processes with the click of a button and from the safety of their homes, without waiting in long queues to beserved. In some countries, such as Greece, the persistence of a grey digital divide in which older people lack internet accessimpedes this significant opportunity. Our aim is to cast light on how the digital divide and seniors are described and positionedin the Greek digital discourse, using as a theoretical framework the existing culture (values) and the country’s current welfarestateformulation (a familialist model). To better understand these matters, relevant policy documents were analyzed and nineinterviews were conducted with elite public officials from the Greek Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications, andMedia. This article reached two key conclusions: 1) the digital divide in Greece is a complex matter with deep cultural roots;2) there are two distinct digital policies in Greece, i.e., the official policy targeting young people and their acquisition of moredigital skills, and the unofficial policy referring to seniors as having “borrowed access” to technology based on the support oftheir families and immediate social environment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Common Ground Research Networks, 2020
Keywords
Familialist Welfare State, Seniors, Digital Divide, Digital Technologies, Social Exclusion
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-81437 (URN)10.18848/2576-5310/CGP/v10i01/15-33 (DOI)
Available from: 2020-05-01 Created: 2020-05-01 Last updated: 2022-12-27Bibliographically approved

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