How to support someone who is digitally excluded

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    Spotting someone who is digitally excluded

    When thinking about someone who has a poor grasp of the internet, most people tend to focus on their grandparents: typically older people who may be well-educated and financially secure, who have never had the need to socialise, shop or bank online.

    But this stereotype is increasingly unhelpful, as it focuses on a very specific subset of the population and means people outside of this subject risk becoming more excluded, especially if resources and policy responses are not catered to them.

    Young or old, poverty is still the main determiner of whether someone is online or not. And while age remains an important factor, it’s giving way to some new groups, like ex-offenders, people who have been out of work, and younger people who may only know how to use and operate a smartphone.

    Digital skills are no longer a binary – you’re no longer just online or not. Digital skills are a spectrum and people move in and out of digital exclusion depending on how long they’ve been away from the digital space in different areas of their life.

    So it’s important to keep an open mind when trying to spot digitally excluded people.

    Best practice when supporting someone who is digitally excluded

    To best assist someone who is digitally excluded, we need to focus on five areas: support, coaching, encouragement, assessment, and demonstration.

    Support: Simply, this is about offering support to those who are digitally excluded with getting started online and with simple digital tasks.

    Coaching: When coaching customers, it’s very important that you do not start any session with pre-conceived agenda. This is not a one-size fits all task.  You need to meet people at the point of their ability and use this as a starting point.

    So, for example, if when with a learner, you ask them to find the settings menu, and they reply that they can’t find it, but they can see a image that looks like a cog, rather than referring to that as the settings menu, you’d refer to it as ‘the cog’ for the remainder of the session as this is something they understand.

    Encouragement: Once the customer has started to build up some confidence in their digital skills, encourage them to learn more and signpost them to further help, if the support they require is outside of our remit.

    Assessment: Another thing to keep in mind is accurately assessing the skill of the customer and tailoring the assistance you provide to their needs.

    You need to establish a ‘key hook’. What is the main thing they want to accomplish after the training session? It could be support with managing their finances, healthcare, or an opportunity to speak to their loved ones more regularly. If the customer is able to achieve their goal, this will motivate them to continue improving their digital skills

    Demonstration: Demonstrating how to use devices requires several important skills:

    • You need to be able to communicate effectively, so the knowledge you pass on is understood
    • Being patient, friendly and passionate about helping people
    • Being organised, punctual and courteous, and
    • Being creative and open to new ideas and approaches. Again, try not to stick to preconceived notions or methods – everyone learns differently so you need to adapt your process to suit the customer.

    Remember, the support we provide is to assist customers with digital skills. We are not there to be IT whizzes or tech experts.

    Last updated:  30th January, 2023