A participatory strategy to fight digital inequality


Amal has met with her friends in the neighborhood square, next to the social center. They know that during the day they have Wi-Fi open and they let them use it without problems. She recently ran out of data and at home the connection is not very good. While with her friends, she takes the opportunity to look at social media, play for a while, and call her distant relatives. At home she sometimes uses the computer that was left for her at school, although she knows that when she finishes the course she will have to return it. She doesn’t think she needs it that much either. She already has her cell phone and is not too interested in learning other things.

As in the case of Amal, digital technologies have transformed many aspects of our society, from the way we communicate and work to the way we consume information and entertainment. The transformation towards a highly technological society has meant, however, the increase in social inequalities .

An access and use gap

The digital divide not only refers to difficulties in accessing and using digital technologies, such as computers, mobile devices or the Internet. It also has to do with the acquisition of digital skills: that is, the knowledge we have of how to use technology and the ability we have to extract its full potential.

It’s not just about Amal being able to use a computer that’s lent to her at school: it’s about being aware of all the benefits she can get out of it, beyond watching networks or talking to friends. Not knowing this seriously limits his and many other people’s capacity for social integration .

Strategies to reduce it

There are several political strategies that seek to reduce inequalities in the digital age. Some examples are the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles or, in Spain, the Digital Spain 2026 agenda and regional initiatives with similar purposes . Although there are clear political wills and intentions to improve the digital well-being of the population, the digital divide is still one of the great challenges of today’s society.

In this area, the role of education is crucial, especially among the youngest. The objective is that they can access digital technologies and fully develop their skills regardless of their family, cultural or economic status. Education, whether formal or informal, has become the key scenario in which to promote digital learning opportunities.

Service learning

Beyond institutional programs, there is a strategy that can bring digital skills closer to the people who need them most while at the same time serving as teaching for those who do it: service learning . With this methodology , students participate in community service activities as an integral part of their learning process, focusing on real community problems and promoting their active commitment to society. These types of practices can be applied at any educational level . At the university, specifically, there are different networks to promote them, such as the APS Network (U) .

At the University of Vic-UCC we have taken advantage of service learning precisely to reduce the digital divide that exists among the young population, with five internships in the Remei neighborhood of the city of Vic (Barcelona). This neighborhood is the one with the highest density in the municipality, with 45% of the population of 54 different nationalities, and with profiles at risk of poverty and social exclusion (21% below the poverty line).

The proposals were made in five different institutions linked to young people: two schools, an adult school, a socio-educational association and a job placement center. Each proposal involved students and teachers, along with other members of those communities. It began by identifying the problems of each center to design tailored interventions.

In educational centers, inclusive digital questionnaires were used for families and a digital training plan was designed for the educational transition to ESO. At the adult school, workshops were held to learn a language through different applications. In addition, in the socio-educational association a digital gymkhana was launched to learn about the territory and in the job placement center they worked on a collaborative multimedia project.

Improvement of skills and involvement

From the evaluation of the results, it has been possible to see how the ApS proposals have had a very positive impact. On the one hand, they have improved access and both digital and social skills of the young participants, learning new digital tools and participating with different groups.

On the other hand, they have encouraged the participation of university students in community projects, strengthening the relationship between university and territory and promoting their role as future professionals committed to social transformation.

The service-learning approach is, therefore, presented as a valuable tool to reduce society’s digital divide, while forming citizens who are committed to their environment and capable of generating significant social changes.

Author Bios: Carles Bosch Geli is a Doctor Professor in the field of multimedia and digital technologies at, Ivet Leiva Suarez is a Technical facilitator of the Laboratory of Social and Digital Innovation (LISD), Mar Beneyto-Seoane is a Doctor Professor in Educational Innovation and Intervention, Núria Simó-Gil is a Titular teacher. Department of Pedagogy and Ramon Reig Bolaño is a Professor of the Department of Engineering all at the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia