Information technology has brought about one of the most fundamental changes of our time with enormous opportunities for society as a whole. But the scale and pace of change also present challenges for individuals and certain groups of citizens and "digital exclusion" is a real threat to many sections of the population. Therefore, the social and labour market dimensions in the context of Information Technology need greater prominence within public debate and public policy through social dialogue. Information Technology provides a new medium, simultaneously national and transnational for this dialogue.
The European Commission suggests that public policies in Information Technology field should aim to
- improve access to information
- enhance democracy and social justice
- promote employability and lifelong learning
- strengthen the capacity of the EU economy to achieve high and sustainable growth and employment
- achieve and enhance equal opportunity between men and women
- promote inclusion and support people with special needs and those lacking opportunities to improve their position
- improve the quality and efficiency of public administration.
The Commission's policies to reach the aforementioned aims are one side of the coin. The way society and all its parts function is another. Social partners - employers and their unions, employees and their unions, special interest groups, government and the individual citizen must all be able to voice an opinion and the advent of IT allows this in a way it has never occurred before. The access to information and an ability to voice a concerted opinion is the key. With IT and the information readily available, any social partner can view opinions from all sides and partake in social dialogue and in essence aid in society's evolution.
Access to Information Technology tools is of fundamental importance for achieving the goals of equity and efficiency. Access has different dimensions: availability, continuity, affordability and awareness. How well these dimensions are dealt with will tilt the balance towards an inclusive or exclusive society. Public policies can make the difference.
Socially excluded groups such as people with disabilities, women or minorities must be included in any strategy facilitating access to Information Technology. Through the use of IT these groups can be actively re-incorporated into society increase their standard of living and be given the ability to voice their own opinions through social dialogue.
Employers have a role to play also. Through the re-organisation of work structure, active participation in corporate social responsibility initiatives, and the provision of continuous training to their employees they too can contribute to an all-inclusive society. Government, through policy can facilitate these and other activities such as Lifelong learning and create a workforce that is ready to adapt in an ever more competitive setting.
Globalisation has come hand in hand with Information Technology and in order to harness the economic and social changes that are now upon us we must make society more inclusive and better informed. This Vortal provides a medium for all social partners to find information on current issues regarding social change and to voice their opinions.