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Making Connections or Digitally Divided? Disadvantage in the Digital World


The digital divide has long been recognised as a challenge for policy makers and services in Ireland, as not everyone has equal access to devices and digital skills. Children and families already experiencing disadvantage often encounter similar patterns of exclusion in the digital environment.

Increased time spent online since the pandemic, the digitisation of public services and the growth in Artificial intelligence are just some of the reasons why digital inclusion is an important issue for policy makers, services and society.

While research indicates a significant digital divide in Ireland, new policy initiatives, approaches to teaching and learning and innovation in the community can address digital inequality. Just as they can create divisions, digital tools can break down barriers and help make connections with real world outcomes. We will hear how approaches such as blended learning and virtual reality are creating opportunities for young people to overcome isolation, build relationships, progress and thrive in their learning.

Event details


Watch the recording.

Moderator & Panel Contributors

Professor mark brown

Opening Contribution

Professor Mark Brown is Ireland’s first Chair in Digital Learning and Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL). Mark has over 30 years’ experience of working in Higher Education and has played key leadership roles in the development, implementation and evaluation of several major university-wide digital learning and teaching initiatives.


Moderator and Panel Contributors

Sarah Haslam, Director of Programmes & Research, Training, Learning and Development, Foróige

Brian Fitzsimons, CEO, iScoil

Professor Ellen Helsper, Professor of Digital Inequalities in the Department of Media and Communications at London School of Economics

Moderator: Aine Kerr. Áine is a teacher-turned-journalist, editor, lecturer, platform executive, executive coach, broadcaster, public speaker and media entrepreneur. Áine is co-founder and COO of Kinzen.

Programme of Events

Perspectives on Disadvantage: How Inequality Concerns Everyone

Kate Pickett

Monday November 15th

Disadvantage prevents children, families and communities from reaching their potential and being heard. Professor Kate Pickett, (University of York) co-author of the Spirit Level and the Inner Level will explain why equal societies do better, and how disadvantage is an issue for us all. Panel contributors include Bernie Laverty, National ABC Manager at Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, Owen Ward, Traveller Education Officer at the Access Centre NUI Galway, and Emer Smyth, Research Professor at the ESRI.

Mitigating Disadvantage through Public Policy


Wednesday November 17th

How can public policy respond to the needs of children and families experiencing disadvantage? Olivier Thévenon, Head of the Child Wellbeing Unit, OECD will talk about effective approaches to family support in different jurisdictions. Panel contributors include senior officials Conor Rowley and Ciara Pidgeon from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Professor Conor O’Mahony, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and Karen Kiernan, CEO of One Family.

Making Connections or Digitally Divided? Disadvantage in the Digital World

Professor mark brown

Monday November 22nd

The digital world is increasingly important in the lives of children and young people – it’s a place to learn, play and participate. Professor Mark Brown, from the National Digital Learning Centre at DCU will explain why a digital society also needs to be a fair society. Panel contributors include Ellen Helsper, Professor of Digital Inequalities (LSE) and we’ll hear how the innovative use of technology in organisations such as Foróige and iScoil is helping young people to reach their potential in the real world.

How can the EU Prioritise the Needs of Children and Young People?

massimiliano mascherini

Wednesday November 24th

How can EU policy initiatives benefit children and young people? What’s important for children and young people as Europe emerges from the pandemic? Massimiliano Mascherini, Head of Unit ad interim Social Policies with Eurofound will share insights from research on the relationship between young people and the EU. Panel Contributors include the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the Eurochild Children’s Council, and UNICEF.