About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2017 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 6779-6787
ISBN: 978-84-697-6957-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2017.1774
Conference name: 10th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2017
Location: Seville, Spain
Digital inclusion policies are considered public instruments of social inclusion that aim to provide basic access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). They assume free access to internet and to knowledge in new technologies, including training actions, in particular, for people with low income, from poor locations or communities. This is a main point for the Municipality of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and specially for Prodabel, the local ICT authority, that adopted a relevant digital inclusion program – called BH Digital Program, in order to promote digital citizenship among poor social classes. Through BH Digital Program several Telecenters – or computer centers, with free computer and internet access, among other facilities – were implemented throughout the city, allowing citizens from poor neighborhoods or slums, to use them, in their daily activities, in local development initiatives, and networking of collaborative actions, as part of social, cultural and economic development strategies. So, Telecenters encourage the use of ICT and the learning of disadvantaged people, which is more often, for instance, the case of the youngsters that may find there an alternative for life, or training possibility that will guarantee them knowledge and easier access to a job, instead of just hanging out on the streets. In education and in the cultural field, ICT has become one of the most important tools of communication and social interaction, establishing a new society, known as the information and knowledge society, in which non-formal education has also assumed a leading role (e.g. Lévy, 1996; Castells, 1999). Dantas (2002) argues that tackling social exclusion and achieving technological modernization must be complementary aspects of the same societal project, that must revalue local communities and increase the strengthening of public spaces, not necessarily state-owned spaces. In this sense, it becomes fundamental to problematize the strategies of digital inclusion as a state policy, which implies discussing it in the context of the new cycle of capitalist expansion and accumulation, seeking to evaluate the outcomes, limits and possibilities of digital inclusion policies.

In this paper, we aim to explore the limits and advantages of Telecenters, not just as instruments of non-formal education and social change, but also as crucial support for intellectual and cultural formation of youngsters and adults in situations of social vulnerability, promoting the full exercise of citizenship, thus broadening their perspectives for inclusion in the information society and in the world of work. We also discuss the role of Telecenters as essential resources for learning processes in local communities. As a methodological approach, we developed an exploratory study based on the technique of focus group for the data collection, with users of Telecentros, in Belo Horizonte. Thematic and content analysis methods were used in data processing, with the support of MAXQDA software. Main findings indicate that there is a predisposition to change social and economic habits and to promote social development and interaction, enhancing the role of Telecentres in the acquisition of capacities, offering to users a new perspective in their lives, and improving their digital citizenship.
Digital inclusion, Telecenters, non-formal education, learning, digital citizenship.