Who is vulnerable to digital exclusion?

This article is part of Digital inclusion

There is no clear-cut answer to the question of who is vulnerable to digital exclusion, but in many cases that vulnerability can be attributed to a number of factors. Some parts of the population are significantly more at risk than others.

5 discerning factors

When it comes to digital skills and access, 5 factors play an important role in determining the risk of digital exclusion:

  1. Income
  2. Education
  3. Age
  4. Household composition
  5. Country of origin

of singles

have no internet connection at home.


of low-skilled people

have never used e-administration.


of 55- to 74-year-olds

have no or limited digital skills.


of people with low incomes

have no internet at home.


of those born outside of Belgium

have no or limited digital skills.

When we look at combinations of these groups, like senior citizens without secondary-level education or low-skilled people with a low income, the numbers indicative of digital exclusion can rise to a staggering 80%.

13 socioeconomic and digital indicators

Of course, the full picture is more nuanced. Research can only identify the major trends, when in reality anyone can be faced with digital exclusion. Some examples:

  • Someone can be highly educated and have a good income, but still be digitally excluded because of a lack of motivation, support, and/or self-confidence.
  • Someone can be low-skilled and jobless, but still be digitally savvy because they have enough digitally skilled people in their network.

In total, there are 13 socioeconomic and digital indicators, whose relative balance determines whether someone is digitally excluded:

5 social indicators

  1. Income
  2. Education
  3. Societal participation
  4. Agency
  5. Wellbeing

8 digital indicators

  1. Access
  2. Attitude or motivation
  3. Digital skills
  4. Communication skills and soft skills
  5. Autonomy (when it comes to usage and development of skills)
  6. Media character of social network
  7. Digital practices and routines
  8. Support

In conclusion, the issue of digital exclusion is not limited to the most vulnerable layers of the population, although the consequences can be greater for those groups.

Are you or do you know someone who is digitally vulnerable?

Everyone handles media and digital technologies differently. Analyse your own situation by taking the Media Profile Test and find out exactly how you deal with media.

Published on 21 February 2024