It’s Get Online Week 18 – 24 Oct. Here’s why it matters.
3 minute read
Get Online Week provides an annual opportunity to work together to raise the profile of digital exclusion as an issue of national importance. Here are some of the things we are doing.
The UK is a tech powerhouse. Indeed, digital design agencies, including ourselves at Nexer, have seen great growth in the last few years. But not everyone is benefiting. There’s a digital divide in the UK with over 7 million people not online (OFCOM, 2020) and millions more only have very basic skills and struggle to complete forms and do anything beyond basic social media. At Nexer, we feel the digital world should be available for all to benefit from.
In the recently launched ‘Blueprint to fix the digital divide’, the charity Good Things Foundation define digital inclusion as, ‘when everyone can access a device, data and digital skills support to live well and safely in a digital world’. It’s important then for us to remember as designers, coders and content makers that we have a responsibility to create our sites to be as accessible and user-friendly as possible to encourage and enable greater use. Our websites and technical services need to be as easy to navigate as possible so users can find information and complete tasks and hopefully have a good experience while doing it.
We’ve been supporting vital digital inclusion initiatives coming from the Good Things Foundation for a number of years. We helped Peaks and Plains housing increase the digital confidence of their tenant community, through the Learn My Way programme. This was vital to our emerging understanding of user research and service design a few years ago, and we saw first-hand how referrals from the job centre led to frustration and distress, where people didn’t make the connection between the work they were seeking and the things they were being taught to use. We also saw very varied levels of confidence in basic tasks around security and software updates, largely because product vendors assume a basic level of tech understanding. Digital services have to add value to people’s lives, offer reassurance, inspire new experiences and support everyone. It’s disappointing to see there is still such inequality.
As a human-centred research, design and development agency, Nexer Digital puts people at the heart of what we do as standard practice, and that includes making sure we understand not just what users are trying to do, but what their likely ability levels are and how they are accessing our products. It’s our business to be as informed, inclusive and impactful as possible.
And this drive to be inclusive means we look beyond the accessibility of our products and are as interested in whether people have the confidence, kit and connectivity to get online in the first place. There has always been a digital divide in the UK, but this was made much worse by the COVID pandemic. Many face-to-face services were withdrawn for a time and places where people who were financially struggling could gain free Wi-Fi access, like libraries and cafes, were closed. That’s why Nexer Digital is donating our pre-loved kit to Community Computers, a charity that will not only stop the swell of e-waste in our landfill sites but will help us tackle digital exclusion by refurbishing and licensing our kit, putting it back into the community at zero or low cost.
We also recently launched the first report from our research on the usability, accessibility and usefulness of EdTech, where we assess the collaboration and content platforms used to support teachers, families and learners. The next phase of this work will assess the experience for learners, their families and carers, where we can see ranging levels of digital skill and confidence. We continue to support a number of clients with accessibility assessments, inclusive research and co-design across the health, public and education sectors.
These are some of the ways in which we are supporting Get Online Week, which takes place on 18 – 24 October. Get Online Week provides an annual opportunity to work together to raise the profile of digital exclusion as an issue of national importance. Thousands of local digital inclusion events will take place across the UK to help people get online for the first time or do more online. If you’d like to take part by running an event you can register on the Get Online Week website.
If you know someone who needs help to get online, you can find out what help is available close to where they live.
Get Online Week is a DfE-funded initiative delivered as part of the Future Digital Inclusion programme and overseen by Good Things Foundation.