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‘Digital inclusion’ starts with user needs

An information-based society can’t be inclusive or democratic if a large portion of the population remains offline.

In the UK, for example, research in 2012 found that 18 percent of citizens surveyed never or rarely use the internet. The UK Digital Skills Alliance was launched to promote online skills nationally and make the UK the “world’s most digitally skilled nation.”

The UK government has now released a checklist of six keys for digital inclusion:

  1. Start with user needs — not our own. In Lambeth, for example, volunteers called “Digital Buddies” help people learn basic online skills so they can more easily access essential services they depend upon.
  2. Improve access — stop making things difficult. The Glasgow Housing Association and BT are working together to provide hardware, basic connectivity and ongoing support for £5 per month.
  3. Motivate people — find something they care about. For instance, an E-mentoring program is making it possible for ex-offenders to more easily maintain identification, employment and other personal information online as they re-integrate into society.
  4. Keep it safe — build trust. The UK Digital Skills Alliance provides a one-stop shop with local and online resources as well as maps to physical resources to assure users easy, safe access for learning digital skills.
  5. Work with others — don’t do it alone. In Liverpool, some 5,000 “digital champions” volunteered to help people who’d never been online go online for the first time.
  6. Focus on wider outcomes — measure performance. Citizens Online and BT, for example, have together offered a series of training sessions with followup contact after three, six, 12 and 24 months. Participants’ responses are used to improve and fine-tune subsequent training sessions.

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