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Speaker at the event

Mind the digital gap

How do we tackle digital exclusion in later life? We held a debate to discuss how society should respond to the issue of digital exclusion in later life, now and in the future.

This event is part of a series to bring together a wide range of people interested in the big issues related to ageing, to raise the debate and start talking about ageing in a productive way.

In the weeks before the event we published a report, The digital age: new approaches to supporting people in later life get online. A blog by Senior Programme Manager Jemma Mouland emphasises how digital inclusion should start with ‘the person, understanding their needs and motivations, and enabling them to use digital to meet these – not starting with digital and thinking about how we can try and “sell it” to people in later life.’ With this as our starting point, we opened up the discussion.

Meet the panel:

And our chair: Dan Jones, Director of Innovation and Change.

We asked: ‘How do we tackle digital exclusion in later life?’ Watch the responses from our speakers and audience:
Video thumbnail
How do we tackle digital exclusion in later life? Our audience shared their thoughts
Deliver excellent quality, engaging training! Not just platforms and devices!
Keep it simple – define the top 5 needs (keeping in touch with family, shopping etc). Then show people how to do it at home, in libraries, GP surgeries etc.
Make it meaningful and easy. Make trouble shooting easy too (an empowering experience of learning rather making people feel like they have failed/ don't get it)
Three takeaway messages from the event
  1. Motivators/barriers – individual vs corporate

People get online because it allows them to do the things that they want to do. Very few of us get online for the sake of it, there’s often a specific driver that’s the catalyst to learn. Can you remember what motivated you to get online?

Grandma Williams suggested that barrier to someone getting online will often make sense to them at a specific time. How comfortable they feel about using something new will be affected by individual circumstances – right up to the point of use. And her message to the organisations and businesses pushing people to access their services online: the onus should be on them to make sure they are supporting people to do so.

She also hinted that love might be a motivator; people in later life driven by curiosity of the world of online dating (as an example) might only feel the drive to get online because of that, not because they can do their grocery shopping from their sofa.

  1. Learning – how people really learn

We choose to do things because they are familiar to us and we feel comfortable doing them. By nature, we like to play things safe. Danielle Simmons reminded us that when something is being taught, we should be mindful of our audience and mindful that different people learn in different ways.

When we leave a school environment, we learn new things because we want to, not because someone has told us we should know them.

And so the type of support people need when they’re looking to get online needs to be open ended, flexible, friendly, generous of time and energy.

  1. Accessibility – so simple it’s intuitive

It’s been a requirement for all websites to be accessible for the past 15 years. However, in reality as many as 90% don’t even meet the basic threshold: A (the legal requirement being AA. Robin Christopherson suggested that one way to reverse this dire situation would be for the government to enforce this rule, forcing businesses and organisations to comply to ensure fair access.

A question for digital service providers to answer before they publish online could be: ‘Can this be simpler for the user?’. Uber’s platform is about as simple as it comes – it’s been designed with customers in mind who might be trying to order a car in the early hours of the morning after perhaps one-too-many on a night out. As amusing as that corporate driver (excuse the pun) may sound, it’s made it into an extremely accessible app for the user. Keep things simple and they’ll be as inclusive as possible.

Watch the whole event
Event room with audience, thumbnail for video
Ellie Gotay
Events Officer