Evidence base needed for digital inclusion
Consultation identifies six priorities to provide momentum for strategy to get more people online
Government needs to build an evidence base on digital inclusion measures to give the relevant efforts and investment more focus, according to the Government Digital Service (GDS).
It has identified the need as one of six priorities for the Digital Inclusion Strategy, following a consultation run with the Digital Inclusion Delivery Board - which brings government together with organisations that have signed up to the campaign - and the cross-government Departmental Sub Group.
A blogpost on the consultation says one of the main factors to emerge was that it is necessary to show what works, the case for investment and the economic and social value of digital inclusion. This needs some quantitative and qualitative case study evidence.
It also combines a familiar call for the sharing best practice with a claim that highlighting the worst cases is also important. “Transparency and honesty is necessary for learning and improvement,” it says.
GDS recently provided a mechanism for producing an evidence base with the launch of an outcomes framework to help public authorities monitor their progress, along with an evaluation toolkit to track local projects.
The blog also emphasises the importance of partnerships to create opportunities and investment. The consultation revealed the need for an assets-based approach that matches capabilities and resource of partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors.
Previous efforts include a joint programme between BT and Barclays to provide free Wi-Fi and digital support in libraries and community hubs, and GDS says it wants to build up the partnership base.
Four other priorities have been identified:
- better communication to promote digital inclusion
- aligning existing spending and channelling new investment
- embedding digital inclusion in a wider range of government policies
- setting up effective governance mechanisms to support collective decision-making.
Among the suggestions for governance is that it involves government and industry, and that better links are created between the Digital Leaders Digital Inclusion Sub Group and the Digital Inclusion Delivery Board.
The overall strategy is aimed at getting 2.7 million more people online over a period of two years. GDS has said that a lot of people are still unable to used digital public services, and signalled it is aiming to plug the gap with more support from private sector providers. Last month it published a prior information notice in the Official Journal of the European Union for companies to provide support and training services.
It has a wider importance to the government in that Chancellor George Osborne has emphasised the role of technology in helping to provide the massive savings he expects from Whitehall over the next five years, but it is more difficult to achieve these if many people remain unable to use digital services.