A new paper has been published which presents a framework for digital inclusion in health and social care.
Co-authored by Aaron Slater, digital inclusion manager at SCVO and Dr Tara French, digital inclusion lead (Digital Health & Care Directorate, Scottish Government), the paper shares a novel approach to digital inclusion which is being explored through the new Digital Inclusion programme (focusing on mental health and housing).
Digital inclusion is the aspiration that everyone has the opportunity to be part of the digital world, ensuring equality of access. Digital inclusion is most commonly understood as:
- Access to a device,
- access to connectivity
- and skills and confidence to navigate the online world.
A fluid and complex landscape
However, not everyone has this opportunity and many people continue to experience digital exclusion. Digital inclusion is not static, it is fluid and complex, influenced by a range of different factors. There are economic requirements such as the cost of buying a device and sustaining connectivity, which can be impacted by the cost of living crisis. There are also skills and learning implications. The technology we use continues to evolve, and so does the need for us to keep pace with these changes. The devices and apps we use today are different to what existed a decade ago, and will continue to change in the next ten years. Being digitally included can change over the course of our lives as our individual circumstances and situation changes.
Prior to the pandemic, the decision to engage with digital, or not, had little consequence on how many of us lived our daily lives. However, the increasing digitisation of services and wider activities that impact everyday life places increased importance on our ability to connect online. There are huge benefits to this digitisation, not just for individuals but also for service providers. As the landscape continues to evolve, we must also reflect on and evolve our thinking on how we approach digital inclusion.
Traditional models of digital inclusion are still relevant and important interventions, but they are focused on the actions required at an individual level so that people can participate in this changing world. There is a need to consider how those driving forward digital change can also play a part in ensuring people have access to online services and supports. This opens up questions such as the responsibility of services in embedding digital inclusion as part of their digital transformation journey. There is value in digitisation of services, but there is also a cost and a responsibility in terms of equitable access. How do organisations that are undertaking digital transformation realise their responsibilities to minimise inequality?
The Pillars for Digital Inclusion framework aims to deepen our understanding of how health and social care services can begin to think about designing for digital inclusion. The framework includes an explicit focus on ‘inclusive design’ as key to enabling digital inclusion, switching the narrative from an individual journey to a shared responsibility with those driving and benefiting from the digitisation of public services.
The paper is recommended to anyone working in any sector across health, social care or wider services who are designing or developing digital services or supports.
Read the full paper:
If you’d like to engage further with the programme or the Pillars for Digital Inclusion you can reach out to the programme at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Slater is digital inclusion manager for The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO); Dr Tara French is digital inclusion lead for the Digital Health & Care Directorate, Scottish Government