Starting a digital inclusion programme can be a large undertaking, and challenging to know where to start. However, help is at hand, in the form of this step by step guide to starting a digital inclusion programme, written by experts in the field. You can also read a case study on how 100% Digital Leeds started their digital inclusion programme.
We’d also really like to hear what’s working for you to help us add to our library of case studies.
Ten steps to starting a digital inclusion programme
1 - Set up your governance arrangements
The size and scope of your digital inclusion programme or project will determine what type of board or governance arrangements will be most appropriate for your organisation. The aim of step 1 is to establish clear lines of reporting and responsibility so that everyone knows who ‘owns’ the work at every level.
These roles should include:
- setting the overall objectives and outcomes for the programme or project
- designing the programme or project and making strategic decisions
- delivering the programme or project and making operational decisions
2 - Source investment and resources
Delivering a digital inclusion programme can require significant investment and resources in order to deliver improvements. Our article on securing investment for a digital inclusion project has advice on how to tackle step 2.
3 - Establish strategies and partnerships
No part of the system can solve digital inclusion by working in isolation. Everyone can play a role in increasing digital inclusion.
Step 3 of the process is an initial overview to determine who those people, teams and organisations are and what role they can play.
A digital inclusion project or programme of any size or scope will have more impact if the work has clear strategic priorities and governance arrangements. These will help with the identification of new partners and the development of partnership agreements or arrangements.
From there it will be easier to define high-level or on-the-ground operational practices and interventions to maximise digital inclusion. Whether that’s for geographical communities or different communities.
At this stage, the decisions will be based largely on the journey that has led to this point. For example, if the work:
- has funding or a business case attached to it
- is being driven by a specific service or strategic lead
- is aiming to increase digital inclusion for a particular community
Step 4 is a chance to widen involvement based on new insights by gathering intelligence.
4 - Gather intelligence
Intelligence in this context is a step beyond a high-level mapping exercise based on modelled data, or the creation of some generic personas. Step 4 requires conversations with council colleagues or contacts in the third sector or health and care who have insights into the lives of the people you’re trying to reach.
Digital inclusion may not be the main focus of these discussions. It’s about finding the teams or organisations that already have a trusted relationship with your intended audience.
Who is actively supporting those people in other aspects of their lives? This could include:
- NHS or public health colleagues who use population health management data to support patients and communities
- council teams who work in and understand priority neighbourhoods
- third sector organisations who support people with specific health conditions, living in specific circumstances or at specific stages of their life
These discussions will increase your understanding of the lived experience of people who are digitally excluded. Some of these contacts may be able to bring people with lived experience into the discussion. In either case, the intelligence you gather should be used to revisit your strategies and partnerships and should help to shape the next stages of the process.
5 - Agree roles and responsibilities
As part of setting up your governance arrangements in step 1, you should have identified who is responsible for:
- setting overall objectives and leading the programme
- designing the programme and making strategic decisions
Establishing a dedicated individual or team to design and deliver the digital inclusion programme is likely to lead to better outcomes, and a more responsive and proactive programme of initiatives, than integrating the role into a pre-existing team.
6 - Agree to produce regular reports
Step 6 involves producing regular update reports showing progress and identifying barriers are a way to keep any governing body informed. Ongoing feedback and direction can inform future development of the programme.
You may wish to make reports publicly accessible, and ask partners to contribute. Working collaboratively and in the open means that more people can see progress and are included in the process.
7 - Analyse returns on investment and other benefits
Step 7 is your opportunity to analyse investment required for the proposed interventions, alongside potential return on investment and the benefits that can be realised through increased digital inclusion.
Evidencing return on investment will help with making the case to secure further funding in the future.
8 - Identify current activities and where inclusion gaps are greatest
In step 8 you should identify existing digital inclusion activity. This will improve signposting and help with better coordinated support for organisations and citizens.
Identifying gaps in support for areas or communities will help target areas for development.
9 - Target priority geographical areas and communities
Step 9 involves targeting priority areas and communities in terms of geography and demographics. This should maximise your impact.
Our article on defining and mapping digital inclusion may help with defining geographical areas in need of extra support. Our research section has various articles that will shed light on specific demographics and communities more likely to experience digital exclusion.
10 - Increase access to training, connectivity and equipment
Step 10 is where you can increase capacity in communities through enabling access to:
You can find more advice on delivering specific digital inclusion interventions, and their associated benefits, in this toolkit.
Now you can assess the outcomes of all your hard work. Taking this approach should help you to:
- increase your understanding of the issues and the scale of the task
- successfully make the case for additional resources to meet the need
- build a targeted digital inclusion movement of organisations and teams working together across sectors