The Digital Divide…

DigitalDivideWith the increased focus on Digital Technology and the UK Governments service strategy being “digital by default”, are we heading into a digital divide within the UK?

So, what is a digital divide?

Well, if I changed the text to say social divide you would instantly understand what I was talking about, except here, we are looking at who is affected by digital shift rather than the financial and social effects of our business change.  If for a second, we think about the impact on the over 75’s social group, people in rural areas with minimal broadband, people with minimal technology skills and compare that to the drive from the UK Government to meet a digital by default agenda, as a country to need to think about how we don’t force proportions of the population into this digital divide, this divide that means only a percentage of the population can access these services.

So, what can we do?

There is no silver bullet for this kind of problem, however, as architects, software engineers, UX designers and consultants we are working through transformation programmes and we are in the process of moving services onto a new digital stream.  There are a couple of things we can consider during our design and build that at least help us to think and ask the right questions:

Who: is connecting to this service? What type of person, organisation or country will be using these services? What is the persona and how will that effect what the service needs to offer.

Which: demographic is using this service? Think about regional connectivity, education, location, income. This takes you right back to the social-economical aspect of the digital divide. It might not sound much but large data formats, high resolution images and large styling can have an impact on mobile download limits. Try putting a price per kb rating onto your own web pages or mobile data transfers. Remember not everyone has high speed broadband.

What: type of device will they be using? All I can say here is there is more than just web and mobile!

Why: will they be using your service online? If they are currently not using online services then there is probably a good reason. Digital transformation tries to resolve this issue by understanding your business reason for digital, not just with a focus on channel shift. Is assisted digital considered? Are you users needing online? There are many more questions to be answered here.

How: complex is the problem? Some services don’t serve themselves well online or through digital media. Are you just putting an old business process online or are you moving to a digital service? Has the user journey been considered and will the user interaction work with all members of our society that use the service?

What if: the service changes in the future? How much have you designed the service for the now and not the future? The technology is available to allow change, the business processes are designed, and most service in government can be shared. Think about how other government organisations can re-use and learn from your design. If we design for change, that change could be re-used in other organisations.

The bottom line is that none of the brain dumps and thoughts above are new, none are time consuming, none are impossible, taking the time to consider digital services will make the different between a good service and a great service – hopefully ensuring that we don’t fall into the Digital Divide chasm………


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