Posted on: 2 July 2020
The Widening Digital Divide
Coronavirus is bad.
But the response has been astounding.
Thanks to the lockdown we’ve seen internet usage spike, and many organisations have risen to the challenge of shifting to an entirely digital presence in a very short space of time.
It seems that digital solutions are now more prevalent than ever, from art galleries and concerts to initiatives that hope to contain the virus.
More encouragingly, people have been reaching out to help the more marginalised members of their communities in new ways, from offering to fetch groceries, to setting up local support groups and even committing random acts of kindness.
Implications for Service Design
Where this gets interesting to people working in the field of user-centred design, is when you stop to consider the implications for how services are designed for marginalised groups in this new world.
It is clear that there are people in our society who do not enjoy unfettered access to the digital world that most of us, if not enjoy, then at least utilise.
Statistics from the ONS clearly show that in 2018:
- 10% of UK adults are non-users of the internet (never used the internet, or not within the last 3 months)
- 79% of non-users (including under-18s) are 65 years old or more
- 60% of non-users are disabled
- The percentage of households in the UK with internet access increases in line with household income
- 41% of households in the UK with a single resident aged 65 years old or more have no internet access
It’s fantastic that our communities are looking out for the more vulnerable during this pandemic. It means that more attention is being paid to those who need it most, and that’s a good thing.
Keeping the Momentum
But what happens when the spotlight shifts, as the rest of us begin to navigate our way back to normalcy?
Those who were previously marginalised apparently have two options: get up to speed or fall further behind.
But they still lack the ground-up services that are built with them in mind, rather than having to jump on existing services as best they can.
We should look at the current situation, identify where marginalised people are increasingly using digital services, then consider the unmet needs that led them there.
We should then take those needs as fresh ground for innovation.
So how can physical services be better adapted to meet the needs of marginalised people?
Check back as we work through an example!