Investigating Groups at the Verge of Social Exclusion Through the Lens of the Capability Approach
17 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2016
Date Written: November 25, 2015
In recent years, much research has been focused around the concept of social inclusion. It is said to lead to a multitude of benefits and advantages for various groups (e.g., older adults, the unemployed, the disabled, youths at the risk of marginalization, immigrants), including equal access to education, employment, and health structures among others. However, as shown through the available literature on social inclusion, the term is somewhat ambiguous, because there is a myriad approaches to it. On the other end, ‘social exclusion’ is often used as its antonym. Therefore, the duality of social inclusion/social exclusion warrants additional examination, not only in order to differentiate between these two concepts and others, such as ‘social deprivation’ and ‘digital divide’, the latter being quite popular within the literature of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), but also because, based on the definition one is using, it is possible to identify different population groups at the verge of social exclusion.
Focusing specifically on ICT, one needs to keep an open mind while looking into the role of technology and investigating the various ways it can support social inclusion, or combat social exclusion. It is necessary to first examine which groups are already socially excluded or at risk of social exclusion. Currently, those who are considered to be in such a position end to be those who are “generally socially advantaged” (Helsper, 2008), i.e., individuals who live in rural areas, older adults, the unemployed, single parents, teenagers at the verge of marginalization, the homeless etc. Having gone through such an investigation, it will be possible to identify which capabilities each of these groups currently hold, which they can further enhance or obtain, and finally pinpoint the necessary actions that researchers and practitioners alike need to take towards developing ICT products and services that can be of benefit for the concerned individuals.
This chapter seeks to delve into the particularities and requirements of individuals who are considered to be at risk or already affected by social exclusion, by focusing specifically on the role of ICT. Such a comparative study is of increased interest, because, when it comes to social inclusion, the various ICT products and services may not fit all audiences. For example, older adults have very different needs when compared to single parents, and each of these groups are at the risk of social exclusion for quite different reasons. As a result, what may seem to help a group to overcome some impediments, it may very well significantly inhibit another group’s access to these products and services, and therefore, this study can facilitate the discussion on social inclusion on different levels and the design and development of ICT products and services. Along these lines, this study aims to, first, identify possibly socially excluded groups and, second, through the lens of Sen’s capability approach, to pinpoint their needs and requirements in order to support researchers and practitioners in their efforts to tackle issues of social exclusion.
Keywords: social inclusion, social exclusion, capability approach, ICT, literature review
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