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Do you know what “illectronism” means?

Don’t be surprised if your spell checker fails to recognise it. This word is a neologism, meaning “information illiteracy”. It refers to a lack, or even a total absence, of knowledge concerning the use of electronic resources. In France, the National Anti-Illiteracy Agency (ANLCI) estimates that this problem affects 15% of the french population.

Do you know what “illectronism” means?

Signs of illectronism include struggling to use hardware or the inability to surf the Web and use online tools or services. It is one of the symptoms of what is more broadly referred to as the “digital divide”, which refers to the disparities in access to information technologies, and to the Internet in particular.

Illectronism is creating a gulf between the people who are adapting to new digital technology-related practices and those who remain on the sidelines. However, it would be a mistake to view illectronism as a problem that only afflicts certain people. It may also be a choice. A CSA* survey found that 12% of respondents who declared that they never used the Internet gave lack of interest (70%) and lack of perceived usefulness (47%) as their reasons.

This could be considered surprising given the importance of digital technology in daily life. We should bear in mind that the current government has set the target of 100% electronic services by 2022. Whether their illectronism is a deliberate choice or a problem they endure, half of these respondents declare having felt a sense of alienation from people around them regarding the use of certain technologies.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. 54% express a desire to improve, and the public and private sectors are taking action to help them. Training courses, reverse mentoring and other initiatives, sometimes free, are being offered throughout France.

And perhaps, with the roll-out of fibre-optic broadband and the announcement of 5G services, they will finally manage to make the most of this technology.

Like any other French people

Contrary to preconceived ideas, people affected by illectronism are hard to tell apart. They are quite representative of the French population:

  • Two-thirds of them are working people;
  • Men and women are equally affected;
  • A third of them are aged between 50 and 64 and 21% are digital natives (under 35 years old);
  • Nearly 30% live in major urban centres (with at least 100,000 inhabitants – outside Greater Paris) and a quarter of them live in rural municipalities.


*CSA for the Syndicat de la presse sociale on “Illectronism in France” - March 2018 / Survey 1800067

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