Introduction

The choice of the subject

This beginning of a new millennium is going to coincide with the reign of new technologies in our societies. Everybody talks about this new society, it is one of the trendiest subjects nowadays, but I do not hear much about how all these changes are going to affect our daily lives. Therefore, I am interested in taking advantage of this research to learn more about this major historical change, that many have called the advent of an Information Society.

Personally, I have been using a computer for 10 years, and until a few years ago, I could only email my American friends because I knew no one in France with an electronic address. Now everyone has one and it seems weird to people if they cannot contact you through a mobile phone or Internet. In addition, when I was doing another paper I was surprised to find many governmental websites with really interesting and useful information. Even with my education and my professional knowledge, I did not know about these sites and actually did not even think of looking there. This event really made me think a lot. Obviously, you need access to new technologies, but it is not enough; you have to know how to use them and also how to find out what is relevant for you.

Working as a social worker in France, Ive worked a lot with young adults who are socially excluded, and Ive always been surprised how fragile they were (even if they were tough on the surface) and how it was difficult to readapt them to be part of our society. Taking account of what is going on with these NT and the necessary ability to know how to use them, I have started wondering if this socially excluded population would be able to participate in it. Working with people with low or even no income, I thought about their possible access to internet, and I see there a great danger of leaving people out of these new technologies.

I also think we are at a turning point where the IS is growing and taking more and more importance everywhere, but our societies are still in an adaptation phase with regard to these changes. One example to make my point, schools is the primary source of education, so that is where one can learn how to use these new technologies. Schools are indeed getting ready to teach these new skills to all, but in most countries, teachers are not yet trained and material is not yet installed everywhere. So until these changes really take place, many people will not have the knowledge of these NT, but they will still have to live in this IS society. In my point of view, this seems like a potential new source of exclusion and that is why I decided to work on this particular aspect of this changing society.

Why Internet?

My problem was how to study in a practical way the participation of all in the information society. I decided to concentrate on one tool, the Internet, because it seems like the most obvious means of communication, in this society based on information, by its creation of an increasingly dense network around our planet. Why is the Internet so important? Because it is going to be omnipresent in our daily lives, and having the knowledge to master it will be essential factor to participate and to be included in of our society. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some possibilities of this new media that is just starting and will increase enormously in the coming years and that will affect our lives:

  • e-commerce
  • Communication (e-mail)
  • Basic skills of Internet necessary for any job
  • New jobs potential
  • Information and active citizenship
  • Knowledge (lifelong learning)

So in the end, it seems appropriate to study the participation process in the Internet and then to make a generalization to the Information Society, because the common point in any tool of this Information Society is going to be its ability to be linked to the world through the Internet. To participate in the Information Society will always be an individual decision, but one has to have the choice to make this decision. I do not think Internet and all the new technologies are the ultimate answer to all problems, such as poverty or social exclusion, but they can be tools to promote the participation of all in the new emerging society.

Title

I chose this title " living in an e-world, an Information Society for all? "for several reasons. First, e stands for electronic and has become the symbol of the adaptation of traditional words to their new meanings in the digital era. The most well known examples are of course e-mail or e-commerce in comparison to the "old" mail and commerce meanings. It appeared then appropriate to use the term e-world to refer to this changing world affected by digitisation. The European Union has used this quote an Information Society for all as its leitmotiv when talking about knowledge based economy inclusive of all its citizens. I just add a question mark to it because looking around me; I was not so sure that this participation of all was so obvious.

Aims of my research

Having decided on my subject, I had to think of what points I would like to explore. Everyone is talking about all these marvellous and endless possibilities of the Information Society. At the same time, it seems there is a growing awareness of the risk of polarization between people who can access and use these new technologies and those who cannot. Some new terms have even been invented to refer to this new phenomenon, such as digital divide or information poor, and thus I would like to do research on what the information society is and what the risks of exclusion are, introduced by modifications of our societies.

I think it is an important topic, because in my job I have to work with people who already have a lot of trouble in being part of society, and they are not well prepared to adapt to these changes. By exploring this subject, I hope to get a better understanding of what is at stake and therefore to be more ready for this new kind of problems that might grow as new technologies spread. Finally, I personally strongly feel that everyone should be aware and prepare for these transformations because we will all have to live in this information society even if our education did not prepare us to do so.

So my main aims for this research are going to be centred on the new risks of exclusion introduced by the information society, Particularly, I would like to find out:

  • Is the digital gap already there?
  • What are the risks?
  • Who is concerned?
  • Existing policies regarding this subject
  • Find some good practices for promoting Internet access and use for all.

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