A checklist for digital inclusion – if we do these things, we’re doing digital inclusion

Government Digital Service - Digital Inclusion Checklist

As with most of our work at the Government Digital Service, we release things early for review and comment. The digital inclusion team, set up last year, would like to share and get your feedback on an alpha version of a checklist for digital inclusion.

We first mentioned a set of principles (we’re now calling it a checklist) when we published action 15 of the Government Digital Strategy. Over the last three months, this checklist has been developed in collaboration with partners from across government, private, voluntary and public sectors.

The intention is for the checklist to act as a guide for any organisation involved in helping people go online. In other words, if you do these things, you’re doing digital inclusion. Alongside each of the six checklist items, we have included an illustrative example of what works and a potential action that could be included in the upcoming digital inclusion strategy.

Checklist Overview

1.  Start with user needs – not our own
2.  Improve access – stop making things difficult
3.  Motivate people – find something they care about
4.  Keep it safe – build trust
5.  Work with others – don’t do it alone
6.  Focus on wider outcomes – measure performance

We want to hear from you

We are looking for feedback on the checklist from organisations and individuals who are involved in helping people, small businesses and small charities go online. We are keen to hear other examples from you  that illustrate great digital inclusion in action. We also want to know what actions we should be taking. Like those we have identified from the examples here, please let us know what you would do.

Your comments

Feedback is great and we want to hear everyone’s thoughts and advice as we develop the digital inclusion strategy. As well as the feedback we’ve asked you for on the checklist above, we have 4 other specific questions that we would really appreciate your help with:

1.  There a number of different roles that government could play. From your experience of digital exclusion, how should the government help tackle this issue?

2.  Getting funding to those who can help people take the first steps to go online is really difficult and complex. How can we make it easier for support and funding to reach organisations who can offer the best support to people offline?

3.  We need new ways of inspiring and helping people go online – not just laptops and slideshows. How can we foster and promote innovation within digital inclusion?

4.  Everyone we have spoken to says that we all need to work together better to tackle digital exclusion. What is stopping this? How do we support greater collaboration, partnerships and joint working?

We are really keen to hear any and all of your feedback via comments below or you can email them to the team at digital-inclusion@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk. If we could ask for your comments, feedback and ideas by the end of January that would be great*.

Your feedback and advice will help to shape a digital inclusion strategy to be published in early Spring and set out how we can all collectively tackle digital exclusion.

We can’t wait to hear from you.

Join the conversation on Twitter: @GDSTeam

*Of course, if you want to get involved, work with us or simply pass on an idea we are always willing to talk. So get in touch!


1.  Start with user needs – not our own

Tailor support around the unique barriers that stop people going online, and adapt to people’s needs which change over time

Throwing money at the problem and offering generic support does not help people go online for the long-term. People need tailored support to help them overcome their own particular barriers; whether that’s around access, cost, confidence or skills. Services need to be built for the user, not for government or business – putting their changing needs first.

Example of what works:

Lambeth Digital Buddies will support 50,000 Lambeth Council residents go online. Many residents are without access to the internet or lack the skills to confidently complete online transactions, and at the same time are heavily reliant on essential services that are migrating to online-only provision.

Digital Buddies are volunteers in the local community that will give their time to help people learn basic online skills, based around a mix of things that interest them, as well as using online government services. As many of those learning digital skills do not have regular access to the internet they can also receive text alerts advising them of important emails (for example from the Department for Work and Pensions) so they can log in knowing that there is something for them to attend to. The scheme also provides tangible benefits to buddies; for example, voluntary work experience helps improve job prospects by building experience and providing references for job applications.

Building on this example, a potential action could be to:

  • Empower local digital buddy networks within a national community of volunteers

2.  Improve access – stop making things difficult

Provide simple, low cost options for those who are socially and economically excluded to get online

Going online can be confusing, difficult and costly. It isn’t just about buying a laptop or smartphone; subscription fees, connection charges, setting up online accounts and installing firewalls can all make for a challenging experience.

Some people in the UK do not yet have access to broadband where they live even if they want to go online. The most digitally excluded are often the most socially and economically excluded, and could benefit the most from going online. Making the practical steps of going online easy and affordable makes a huge difference to people who are new to the internet.

Example of what works:

The Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), Scottish Government and BT have joined together to provide affordable broadband to a tower block in central Glasgow. With only 37% of those people living in social housing being online, support through housing providers is hugely important.

At £5 per month, not only does the service provide residents with simple and affordable connectivity and hardware, but the additional ongoing training and support they receive allows them to feel confident to use it.

By working together, all partners benefit from the scheme: reducing costs for GHA through online rent payments, fault reporting and communications with tenants; residents are now able to take advantage of the financial and social benefits that the internet can offer; for BT, increased market share and a new customer base; and, the scheme supports the government’s priorities by preparing for changes to universal credit.

Building on this example, potential actions could be to:

  • Establish a national model to provide housing association residents with connectivity, hardware and training

  • Define common standards across service providers, not just government, for basic online transactions e.g. paying rent online

3.  Motivate people – find something they care about

Bring digital into people’s lives in a way that benefits them; helping them do things they care about and can only do online

Pushing people to do something that doesn’t interest them doesn’t work. Let’s face it, doing government transactions online is not the most inspirational digital activity and is unlikely to be the motivator that gets someone to go online. In contrast, keeping in touch with your grandchildren who live abroad might be. Nobody wants to learn digital skills for the sake of it, and having an internet connection is useless unless you have a reason to want to use it.

Example of what works:

The E-mentoring initiative for the Rehabilitation of Prolific and Priority Offenders gives ex-offenders access to support, advice and guidance across a range of issues. When integrating back into society, priorities for ex-offenders include getting a job, finding secure accommodation and easily keeping in contact with their probation officers.

Through a ‘Virtual Home’, members can store vital personal information such as proof of ID, qualifications, CV and employment history which are not easy to maintain due to the transient and uncertain lifestyle that many are faced with.

By making ex-offenders’ lives better and focusing on the things that they care about, digital becomes part of their everyday lives. This innovative project was led in Leicestershire and Rutland with the support of the Brightside Trust.

Building on this example, a potential action could be to:

  • Make digital skills a central component of all rehabilitation

4.  Keep it safe – build trust

Make it easier to stay safe online by providing simple and straightforward advice and tools

Going online can be a daunting experience for many as they open themselves up to new risks. To keep people online in the long term it’s vital that they can rely on trusted sources to get the help, support and assurance they need to build their confidence in a digital world. The internet will never be 100% secure and staying safe online needs to be a basic digital literacy skill. Not enough people know how to look after themselves and others securely and not enough people trust the internet in the first place.

Example of what works:

Go ON UK  are developing a single place called digitalskills.com for those helping individuals, small businesses and small charities learn to be proficient, confident and safe online.

digitalskills.com is a repository of local resources and opportunities for accessing, learning and sharing digital skills. Still in its beta phase, the website has been created with a group of highly regarded and reputable national brands and will, over time, be developed to assure the quality of the resources and advice that is made available.

As well as links to useful information and services, there are maps to direct people to where local physical resources and advice are located. Go ON UK’s ambition and intent is to to create a single, trusted, and evolving source for online services that will help instill confidence and trust amongst new users and those supporting them.

Building on this example, a potential action could be to:

  • Build and promote digitalskills.com to be a UK wide trusted source of tools, advice and opportunities

5.  Work with others – don’t do it alone

Work together to maximise expertise, experience and resources to better meet user needs

Services to help people go online are not joined up enough. Efforts are duplicated across providers, funding is sporadic and does not always align with users’ needs. Better links and coordination are needed between the public, private and voluntary sector, so that their efforts add up to more than the sum of their parts.

Example of what works:

Liverpool’s Race Online 2012 (Go ON it’s Liverpool) brought together some 5,000 digital champions to help people go online by promoting a wide range of activities across the city – for example, encouraging people to ‘Give an hour’ to help those off-line to go online. This was a highly successful campaign brought about by a collaborative model involving everyone from; politicians, to community groups, the police, local businesses and volunteers to help the people of Liverpool go online.

This multi-faceted partnership and high profile initiative helped 104,000 people in Liverpool who had never been online (July 2011) and reduced those digitally excluded by 58,000 over the year. The success of the Liverpool Race has led to this model being replicated in the first of Go ON UK’s regional programmes in the North East.

Building on this example, a potential action could be to:

  • Partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors to work together to roll-out Go ON UK’s regional partnership programme nationally

6.  Focus on wider outcomes – measure performance

Identify wider outcomes that can be delivered by helping people become independently confident online and use data to understand what works

Reducing digital exclusion is not about the number of people who simply log-on once; how we measure digital inclusion needs to become far better. Equally, being able to go online is not an end in itself, but it does offer one way to help improve wider social and economic outcomes like improved health, employment or reduced re-offending and loneliness.

Identifying and prioritising against wider outcomes, agreeing common measures, evaluating and testing what works, as well as iterating and making things better, is critical to realising the benefits of going digital and achieving maximum impact for minimum resources.

Example of what works:

There are very few longitudinal surveys which track the long term efficacy of help and support provided to those digitally excluded; meaning that what works and what doesn’t is hard to understand.

Citizens Online and BT have been running a series of training sessions as part of their Get IT Together initiative. Learners receive 4 sessions of training and are then contacted after 3, 6, 12, and 24 months. Understanding ongoing user-confidence, types of devices owned and services being used, as well as the reasons for being online and offline allows Citizens Online and BT to iterate and make changes to their approaches when delivering training, support and developing new services.

Building on this example, a potential action could be to:

  • Establish a common measure of digital inclusion across national, local, public and private surveys

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  1. Would also suggest, ‘dont reinvent the wheel.’ With regards digital products there are many good practice examples out there that we can learn from and in some open source cases, use ourselves.

    A digital approach to most activities in Government isnt new, so if we share ideas and procedures we can produce class leading products accross government.

  2. You could usefully add something about personal control over personal data, which embraces ID assurance, My Gov Data and personalisation of digital services.

    eg “Personal control over personal data. Place the individual, and their personal data store, at the heart of the digital service architecture. Wherever possible give data back to the individual, use digital credentials held by the individual for service access and permissioned data direct from the individual for service personalisation, let the individual be the data controller, the curator of data about themselves and the point of integration for joined up services.”

    You could place it in one of the other sections above, but it might merit its own section.

    Why is this inclusive? It empowers people. It’s safer, more convenient and provides a richer, more flexible range of services faster, without the panopticon and data quality problems associated with centralised databases for everything.

  3. The checklist is high level, but the devil is in the details. Nowhere does the post mention people with disabilities, yet as a group that spans both older and socio-economically excluded people, they face even greater challenges.

  4. Very nice Michael,

    Don’t know what anyone else was expecting but your checklist is identical to the one I made. (different words, same meaning). Only one I’d add is “provide users with the tools THEY want”. You’ve inferred it; just think we need to be specific (if this is a checklist and not a ‘principles’ list).

    And thank you for the examples for each. So very useful in illustrating the applications taken by departments with very different users. More please. Now I know all I have to do, to get what I want, is commit a (minor) criminal offense and in my rehabilitation will be given a ‘virtual home’ (which is something I’ve been asking for forever.) I take it I can use the same account to video conference with my parole officer. If I’d known that I would have started my application years ago:)

    But seriously (thinking from your perspective). If we will be working with others, we do need to consider where we put the open classroom, and work through which learning tools “the institutionalized” prefer to share. The digitalskills’ url is the one you’ve chosen. goodoh. Not sure how broadly you want to be inclusive. But if you want to include some of your peers from the EC (Connect team) you might consider digitalskills.eu. Language is one obstacle/opportunity we need to a address on day one (gotta include the foreign service)

    Tools? It seems wordpress is your teams’ blog of choice, so that’s one. We have six threads here (so far) which will need working through (separately), so I’d suggest something like this, as far as forums go. http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/

    It’s early days and I’m sure your team has got everything pretty much covered, except figuring out how to encourage an open culture. Who does? That’s a matter of keeping the discussions above the radar (so we can point at conversations rather than repeating them). So you might be interested in this one from one of my foreign correspondents. It’s not a promo for FB; more a focus on (inter-institutional) groups, and the cultural challenge we all have in opening things up, and including others. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/experimenting-with-facebook-in-the-college-classroom/

    I’ll bookmark this page as Day 1. All the best.

  5. I would agree with William and include something around personal control over personal data. This could fall under build trust. There has to be personal inclusion whereby people have control what is known and held about them and that it is done so in accordance with regulation and the law.

  6. So, with what Daren, Agenci and I were saying, the GDS teams will now have to decide whether the design principle is going to be user-centric or citizen-centric. (and that will lead into discussions about “federated services”. That’s No 7)

    Leonie, check out http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2013/08/22/meet-the-assisted-digital-team/
    We’ll get down to the detail on assisting all sorts of disabilities soon. But at this stage all any inclusion tries to do is have (design) principles which apply to every citizen. How they are applied, and to whom, will always depend on particular departments.

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