Digital exclusion by default

October 23, 2011

Any proponent of the UK Government’s Universal Credit scheme might do well to read the latest academic review from the department responsible for it, the Department for Work and Pensions. The  Research Report is No 776 “Increasing digital channel use among digitally excluded Jobcentre Plus claimants“, published in October 2011. The authors are Duncan Adam, Vicky Campbell Hall, Dr Maria de Hoyos, Anne E. Green and Dr Andrew Thomas, the research being carried out by TNS-BMRB.

Whilst central government is keen for services to be ‘digital-by-default’, those looking at the citizen-customers as these researchers have, recognise the huge chasm to be crossed in getting the major government service users involved to employ digital channels. The advice offered to Jobcentre Plus is admirable , but well-known in loc al government where trying to increase take-up of electronically-delivered services has been happening these past ten years.

A key omission from the report is any word on partnership! So the mighty DWP is going to sort out this digital and social exclusion by itself without any consideration of working with other government departments or local government. There have been some joint adventures between the JC+ and local government, but we still have job seekers going from one office to the next seeking advice in many cases. Do the DWP have to offer training, whilst the library is doing the same, and the Housing options team are assisting people with computer use to find a house?

Yet again there has to be a more efficient way of doing this.