Tackling the Digital Divide
It has been some time since we last blogged about our work relating to Assisted Digital. While we’ve been quiet, we have been busy working with our stakeholders to develop our thinking about the Assisted Digital (supporting access to Digital by Default services) and Digital Inclusion (tackling the issues that prevent everyone getting online) agendas. Of course, during this period, work has also continued on tackling the Digital Divide by encouraging people to get online.
Therefore, it is great to see that the efforts of the Race Online 2012 campaign team and its partners (with Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox at the helm) are making real progress. Recent figures on internet usage (pdf) from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that nearly 300,000 people in the UK went online for the first time during Q3 of 2011.
This takes the total number of adults who have been online at least once to 41.6m, equating to over 83% of the population. While this is very good news and clearly demonstrates a rising trend across the entire population to get online, the ONS figures show that there is still work to be done in engaging many socio-economic groups.
Of course, once a person has sampled the benefits of being online, we must do more to ensure that they can stay online. The 3,800 strong network of UK Online Centres offer a range of courses aimed at helping people to develop digital skills and gain access to internet enabled computers. UK Online Centres, along with other Race Online 2012 partners, are supporting the Give an Hour at Christmas campaign, which encourages volunteers to help someone to get online. This builds on the recent Give an Hour campaign held to coincide with the clocks going back at the end of British Summer time. GDS is working with the Cabinet Office to encourage Civil Servants to support the campaign.
One of the recognised barriers to Digital Services is accessibility (barriers that prevent or make it difficult to use technology) and the need to improve access to technology for everyone. The eAccessibility Forum , run by DCMS, recently launched a new website to encourage the sharing of ideas and experiences relating to accessibility. The discussions that take place within the forum will feed into the next iteration of the eAccessibility Action Plan.
Working at the heart of Government Digital policy gives us a real sense of responsibility to identify the drivers and enablers which will help every citizen to reap the benefits of this digital age. Of course, it is important to deliver Digital by Default services that are usable and accessible; but it is just as important to understand why people use the internet – or more importantly why a significant proportion of the population are still reluctant to use it.
We want to do a lot more to help citizens to get online, to participate in a new digital age and to appreciate the social, economic, educational and recreational benefits of being digital. So in the coming months we will be sharing our thoughts and promoting more of the great work being done to get people online – more will follow soon…….