How can councils get more people online?

"Digital inclusion"

“It would be useful if there was a national measure of digital literacy”

A recent article asked experts in housing to give their opinion on the obstacles of and solutions to getting people online or ‘improving digital inclusion’. EcitizenEye feels these tips can be used by local councils as well, to encourage their citizens to get the most use of online council services.

The problems pointed out included: People don’t understand the value of the internet; they are not computer literate; they are put off by technical “jargonistic words”.

Once these problems are understood, councils can work to overturn them. One expert said it is important “to build an understanding of how using the internet could benefit the public and arrange exposure to IT through ‘trusted sources’ such as internet cafes with tutors,” whilst another expert thinks that “ultimately, people need to get online in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.”

The barriers to digital inclusion for a rural community are going to be different to those of an urban community.

James Grant is social media and digital inclusion officer at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation believes “it would be useful if there was a national measure of digital literacy: So everyone knew how they compare to everyone else and where the gaps in their literacy are.”

Kevin Hedges at Coastal Housing Group believes that any approach must be tailored towards one’s particular audience: “When you start working with people who are digitally excluded, you need to determine what their idea of the internet is and what they would benefit from. We need to demonstrate its benefits for them.” George Grant, publisher and founder of Housing Technology magazine, further explains this: “If you foist technology onto people who are not technology savvy: You really need to take them by the hand and show them how to use it.”

Louise Kingdon, the digital inclusion officer at Charter Housing, is concerned about universal credit – the government’s scheme to bring the benefits system online – and believes that while it could motivate people into getting online, “the government should ensure that the public know this is on the horizon so that they can prepare themselves, and find out where to go to get help with access/training.”

An important tip from Kingdon is that the amount of money saved by going online is not sufficient to convince people “with a fear of technology” and building their confidence and trust in the internet is key.

Older people are often the harder to convince and a stat that may help them understand the usefulness of the internet is that 72% of older people found being on line reduced the feeling of loneliness and 81% said it made them feel part of modern society. Furthermore, the use of telecare and telehealth to improve standard of living must be explained to them.

We leave you with one last tip from Darren Wood of WM Housing Group: “Digital inclusion is not a tick list: It’s about having confidence to go online, explore and not be afraid you are ‘going to break it.”

Related reading