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Getting started on assisted digital

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.

Digital skills class in Sunderland

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

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  1. Comment by The UK’s digital landscape | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] how people use (or don’t use) government digital services and information. To inform our work on assisted digital, we wanted to look in more detail at people who are [...]

  2. Comment by A bit more about assisted digital | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] in May, we blogged about the work we were just starting on assisted digital. Today, in the Government Digital Strategy, we commit to taking a [...]

  3. Comment by This week at GDS | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] on the Government Digital Strategy as we head towards publication. And they’ve been working on Assisted Digital – analysing transactional services across government to understand how many people will need [...]

  4. Comment by Internet Access – What about my gran? | 2Med Blog posted on

    [...] Internet Access – What about my gran? May 30, 2012Getting started on assisted digital [...]

  5. Comment by Simon Neale posted on

    Really pleased to see how the project team are thinking about not just the digital service but how the end-user experience is going to work. Biggest concern are those heavy users of Govt services who are in the bracket of Digital Exclusion. We work onsite in Jobcentre Plus offices in JCP West London District supporting Digital Champions with IT skills and Digital literacy sessions for customers, so can see first hand how not being online affects an individuals opportunity for work and access to services.
    Keep up the good work

    • Replies to Simon Neale>

      Comment by Rebecca Kemp posted on

      Hi Simon, thanks for your support and I agree that often the people who most use government services are the people who are most likely to be offline. I hope that we can learn more about your work because local is going to be central to assisted digital.

  6. Comment by Charles Kravetz posted on

    The font used for this website is great, however, the color is not so good. Using light/medium gray on white makes it difficult to read on low to medium quality monitors. Could the text be made darker for easier visibility? Those with visual issues often find dark text (black or dark blue) on white or very light gray easiest.

  7. Comment by James Coltham posted on

    Great to hear about the work being done in this area. As you state, the two groups you identify present unique challenges, often with very different motivations, and will require a broad range of approaches. I'll be following with your progress with interest!

    • Replies to James Coltham>

      Comment by Rebecca Kemp posted on

      You've hit the nail on the head. Understanding people's motivations around (not) using digital is going to be vital for getting assisted digital right, we'll blog more about this in the coming weeks and months.

  8. Comment by David Brunnen posted on

    Great work - an interesting programme that deserves wider attention. It's good to see that you're working with other departments/agencies etc. I suggest you link with NextGen - it could be a very useful topic for the London conference next October - particularly issues around making services digital-only and the need for digital infrastructure improvements in 'hard-to-reach' areas. See also NG Connected;

    • Replies to David Brunnen>

      Comment by Rebecca Kemp posted on

      Hi David, thanks for your support and I'll take a look at the event. Connectivity is definitely an issue for some of the people who will need assisted digital.

  9. Comment by Charlotte Wheat posted on

    Interesting blog about considering the different customer audience groups for digital services. Another audience group that will be critical to assisted digital and digital delivery is customer facing staff in places such as JCP and local council offices who will be vital in informing customers about online digital services and sign posting them to places to get support or supporting them there and then .It's critical that these staff are informed and engaged regarding digital by default so they understand the Benifits to the customer and don't see it just as a cost saving exercise for government. This will be vital in reaching the audiences that require assisted digital support the most.

    • Replies to Charlotte Wheat>

      Comment by Rebecca Kemp posted on

      Thanks for the comment Charlotte. I definitely agree that the people delivering services are really important for assisted digital - and digital by default more generally. We will keep this front of mind as we start answering the questions I blogged about.

  10. Comment by matthewlgrant posted on

    Guys, that open font is one of the ugliest I've seen in all my years, it not only offends my typographical training, but is completely illegible - what were you thinking...? Really like your stuff but think....whoah! Get back basic read-ability