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DIGital traNsport In and for socieTY

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Making the digital revolution in urban transport inclusive

Technological barriers risk excluding certain groups from next-generation transport. A new framework aims to tackle this problem.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

The digital revolution is already changing the ways people access information about transport services and products, as well as shaping new mobility patterns and transport options. Yet not everyone benefits from these digital upgrades. A ‘digital gap’ is emerging, one which threatens to divide and segregate groups based in part on their access to digital services. This includes, for example, older people, those with disabilities, the economically vulnerable and people with low education, who can’t use next-generation transport for reasons such as inadequate access to the required technology, or poor digital skills. “The digital gap in mobility, and specifically its potential effects on mobility poverty, has not yet received the necessary attention in national and local mobility policies,” explains Silvia Gaggi, senior project manager at the Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems (ISINNOVA) and DIGNITY project coordinator. “If not urgently addressed, the growing digitalisation of mobility solutions is likely to cause further exclusion of specific vulnerable groups,” she adds.

Innovative transport for everyone

In the EU-funded DIGNITY project, researchers developed an entirely new framework for urban transport. “The aim was to support public and private mobility providers in conceiving mainstream digital products or services that are accessible to and usable by as many people as possible, regardless of their income, social background, health situation or age,” says Gaggi. The project also sought to help policymakers formulate long-term strategies that promote innovation in transport, while responding to global social, demographic and economic changes, including the challenges of poverty and migration.

The DIGNITY approach

The first step was to assess the ‘digital gap’ in urban centres across Europe, by getting an overview of the inclusivity of the digital transport scene in a given city, region or nation. The team gathered insights on: the digital abilities and mobility poverty of the population; the provision of digital urban transport; and the policies shaping digital mobility and inclusion. Using insights from this initial framing stage, the team then worked on bridging the digital gap. This process involved building potential scenarios in order to draft inclusive policies, and had input from a range of stakeholders, from policymakers to transport providers – and the end users. “The DIGNITY approach is developed in such a way that the output of framing and bridging phases collectively can be used to develop a local strategy towards an inclusive digital travel ecosystem,” notes Gaggi.

Trials across Europe

The DIGNITY approach was successfully tested in four pilots across Europe: Barcelona, Flanders, Ancona and Tilburg. These efforts resulted in an innovative decision support tool for local and regional decision makers to formulate digitally inclusive policies and strategies, and for digital providers to design more inclusive products and services. The DIGNITY toolkit and guidelines enable authorities to implement the research methods in their own locality. Furthermore, the collection of population-level data in five EU countries, combined with the collection of examples of existing digital mobility services across Europe, has provided a holistic perspective on who is excluded from using a particular digital product or service and why. “DIGNITY raised awareness of the digital gap in transport and the need to bridge the gap to leave no one behind in the digital transition, therefore contributing to building a ‘culture of dignity’ for all the actors in the digital transport ecosystem,” says Gaggi.

Keywords

DIGNITY, urban, digital, transport, mobility, policies, ecosystem, poverty

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