The Government Digital Service assisted digital team has been up and running for a few weeks now and we wanted to share some of our early thoughts.
For starters, just what do we mean by assisted digital?
It’s easiest to think about this in terms of the people who might need assisted digital. They fall into two groups.
The first are people who can’t use digital services at the moment but could in future. These people face barriers to using the internet that can be overcome, for example, by learning to use the web at a UK Online Centre. The other group are people who will never be able to use digital services themselves and will always need help, for example, people who are very ill or have disabilities and are helped by a family member or carer.
Existing research tells us something about who these people are likely to be. The Office of National Statistics reports that in the first quarter of 2012, 8.12 million adults (16.1%) had never used the internet, including 3.35 million people aged 75 years and over and 4.04 million disabled adults. Of people who are employed, people on lower incomes are less likely to use the internet.
Over the coming months we will be working to understand more about these users’ needs, and more about the needs of people who have used the internet a little but aren’t frequent or confident users.
Why do we need assisted digital?
As Government we have a duty to provide public services for everyone who is entitled to them. This responsibility doesn’t change when we have a digital by default approach. We want to encourage people to use high quality digital services, but we also want to make sure that we provide assisted digital services for people who need them.
What does this mean in practice?
We are beginning to work out what assisted digital looks like in practice. We shared some ideas in an earlier post but now the assisted digital team is in place we are going back to the drawing board and starting with needs.
Assisted digital might be different for different users and services. It could be helping people learn to use the internet so they can use digital services by themselves. It could be having a place where people can go to get help using a digital service. For people who need it, assisted digital could be providing services by phone or face to face. Part of the role of GDS is to make sure that government takes a coherent approach to different users and services.
What are we working on?
We are currently working on the following topics and we will keep blogging as our thinking develops
- How do we design assisted digital for people who will never use digital services and for those who with support, guidance and access, might?
- How do we deliver assisted digital? What are the roles of departments, partners and intermediaries? How and where do we procure assisted digital support from organisations outside government?
- Where is it appropriate to make services digital-only? Depending on user needs, mandating digital channels might be appropriate in some cases and not in others.
Thanks to the work of Go On UK and many others, the number of people who can’t use digital services is decreasing. We must encourage people with new skills or new access to digital services to shift to using digital channels so they can get the benefits of high quality digital services.
Who are we working with?
These questions aren’t easy to answer and we are fortunate to be tackling them with great people from inside and outside government.
Departments now have assisted digital leads who are driving their work and have been nominated by their Digital Leaders. We will be collaborating with them on the cross-government approach to assisted digital and their own departments’ plans.
We will also be working closely with organisations who already provide assisted digital and work with people who might need to use it in future. UK Online Centres, CAB, Age UK, BDUK, Post Office and Arts Council/Libraries are all involved, and we are keen for other organisations to be part of our work.
Are you interested in assisted digital?
We are very interested in hearing the views of people and organisations that work with people who would use assisted digital. Please get in touch with your feedback, ideas and views – by commenting on this post or on Twitter @RebeccaGDS, @Govuk