We are constantly hearing that digital services are “the future”, but in actual fact we are already fully immersed in a digital life. Technology lives in our pockets, directs us round the country, gives us access to knowledge within micro seconds. We are an incredibly digitally knowledgeable species already.
Or are we? It’s easy to perceive that “everybody” has access to a computer, the internet and smart devices. Unfortunately we’re often distracted by our own access to such tools that we fail to notice that external factors such as money, education and time can have a profoundly negative effect on people’s digital literacy.
Are We All As Digitally Literate As We Appear?
Digital literacy refers to knowledge and skills with digital devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets.
16% of UK adults are classed as “functionally illiterate”, meaning they would be unable to pass a GCSE. 50% of people can’t do basic maths. These are the very basic skills most of you will have learned at an early age, and have been taught in schools for centuries. Yet 16% is an alarming proportion of the population. Imagine then that a modern skill set such as digital capabilities becoming a part of everyday life, and people having to learn them independently. Take into consideration how fast-paced and constantly-changing digital experiences are too.
Research published by the BBC has found that 21% of Britain’s population lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the internet.
Even most people who have access to smart devices are lacking in the skills required to use them to their full potential.
Good software design should address the digital know-how of it’s potential users or else there is a high risk of limited usage of the technologies. Some of the main areas to take notice are authentication (how the user signs up and/or logging in), general user interface design, personalisation options and the clarity in the support documentation.
Digital Inclusion Strategy
The government have a digital inclusion strategy in place to ensure everyone who can be is online by 2020. They have identified 4 main kinds of challenge faced to achieving results:
- access – the ability to actually go online and connect to the internet
- skills – to be able to use the internet
- motivation – knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
- trust – a fear of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online
According to the BBC Media Literacy study, 21% of people can’t use the web. 14% of people don’t have internet access at all, so 7% do have internet access but don’t use it in ways that benefit them day to day.
Addressing Digital Literacy
So how can this be combatted? There have been a number of projects and programmes that aim to address digital literacy, here are a few:
- Providing free access at public libraries
- Creating DotEveryone – the UK’s digital skills alliance designed to inspire people and organisations who want to help others build their digital capability
- The Broadband Delivery UK Programme aims to bring high speed broadband access to 95% of homes by December 2017
- Motivating users to go online by teaching them the benefits of job search software such as Universal Jobmatch, rather than simply pushing them into it
- Get Safe Online is a scheme which helps people keep themselves safe against the threat of fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other online security issues
- WEA (Workers Educational Association) are a unique adult education provider working with hundreds of organisations at local, regional and national levels. Courses include IT for Beginners, covering the use of computers, mobile devices and social media.
It’s paramount that digital healthcare providers work with adult community learning regarding digital literacy. However the challenge of usability needs to be tackled at the design stage using co-production as the process. The key to success is in the quality of the relationship between the partners in each project, and at bitjam we work in a highly collaborative manner with clients and stakeholders to research and develop innovative solutions that meet their needs.