According to a 2019 report by Good Things Foundation, 3.88 million adults in the UK think that the internet is ‘not for them’.
Even with full access to devices and connectivity, the motivation to put time and effort into acquiring skills is required for people to make significant progress towards becoming more digitally included.
Necessary tasks with significant penalties if they’re not completed, such as applying for jobs or managing benefits online, can add extra stress to acquiring digital skills and raise additional barriers by dissuading people from trying out other things which may be enjoyable or benefit them day to day.
Overcoming the barrier of motivation is made easier if people are convinced of the personal benefits to using digital technology and the internet, and don’t see it as an unproductive time sink.
One of the key ways to help with this is to find the ‘hook’ for that person; something that relates to their existing interests or hobbies, and adds obvious value to using digital technology regularly. Something they’re passionate about and feel confident with is a good place to start. Find digital resources that make the person’s life easier, and start small.
Use of language
When starting the journey to using digital technology there is a lot to learn, which can feel overwhelming. Think about the language you use when promoting something digital that may be unfamiliar, and avoid jargon. Rather than saying they can use zoom, describe it in a familiar way e.g., video call. Some jargon is so widely used that it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows what it means.
Discuss using digital with positive language, emphasising the benefits that accessing digital tools can provide. For example, saving money or saving time. More on this approach is discussed in our article on digital champions.
Pairing the familiar with the unfamiliar
Making the shift to digital can be intimidating for people who have little or no prior experience. Finding familiar things within their lives to pair it with can make it more approachable and easier to see the benefit.
The unfamiliar may be the digital device, the platform, the app, or the jargon. These things can be intimidating and unapproachable when taken as a whole. People unused to using technology are often afraid of making mistakes and breaking something, or they see too many options and feel like there is too much to learn.
The familiar is something people recognise, something they know how to do, or something they like. This could be a jigsaw or crossword app for an elderly person who has completed all the ones available at the coffee morning. Or it could be an eBook for someone who is not able to regularly access the library in person. These things have obvious purposes and are familiar in their presentation, while also making use of the digital interface and getting people accustomed to interacting with the device.
Finding the ‘hook’
Finding ONE key benefit for a person can open up the conversation that inspires them see digital technology as something they can make use of. It’s about the person, not the tech, and what matters to them.
Access to gardening advice and plant identification may be a major draw for keen gardeners. Access to online cultural offers may appeal to people with mobility issues or full-time carers who can’t attend museums or theatre performances in person. There is also a huge variety of free online learning available for people with specific topics of interest.
You can also think about how engaging with health digitally can make someone’s life easier. Digital tools such as the NHS website or medication reminders, and virtual GP consultations can provide a positive experience and have multiple benefits. For people who can’t make it to the gym there are many exercise routines at all levels available online.
A key thing to bear in mind is that this approach is about providing more choices for people, not forcing them. Being digitally included means having the choice to use digital where it is the best option, and not being excluded from accessing the benefits it brings.
Added by: TechResort October 14, 2021
Don’t try and do too much at a time
TechResort has been coaching clients of a support organisation who need to improve their digital skills to access essential services and support.
The individuals are very well motivated and keen to make more of their skills but can get quickly overloaded with new information. This, in turn, can end up reducing their motivation to do more.
We help them set up their devices and simply ask – “what’s the thing you really need to do now?”. We listen as they explain and find the easiest way for them to be able to complete the task immediately.
It can be something simple like bookmarking a page in a browser so they can easily come back to it at home. We show them the first time but ask what other pages they might like to bookmark and we aim to give them plenty of practice there and then, and to take notes if they need it. In many cases, that’s the only micro-skill we teach them at the time but we’ll see how they got on the next time we meet.
We always aim to be learner-led, rather than showing people what they need to do. By helping them achieve tasks they want (or need) to complete, we’ve found much more willingness to keep going even when new skills are tough to learn.