The government’s Digital Inclusion Task Force is due to release new research next week, highlighting the yawning gap between Britain’s digital haves and have-nots. The Task Force has the worthy aim of bringing online the hitherto digitally dispossessed: the elderly, the poor and the poorly educated.
So does the digital inclusion campaign have any relevance for chief information officers (CIOs)?
If you are a head of IT in the public sector, then clearly it does. Digital inclusion is central to the government’s strategy to deliver public services online through its Directgov site. This improves efficiency for the citizen by cutting queues at government offices.
Of course, giving citizens the confidence to use self-service applications to renew passports, fill in tax returns or apply for housing benefit also reduces the cost to the government of providing services.
But to achieve these aims, the government needs a populace that is universally comfortable in the online environment; hence digital inclusion.
But is there anything in digital inclusion for the private sector? Plenty: in the form of new customers and less-demanding employees.
A more web-savvy population means more opportunities for CIOs to reduce costs by providing products and services as self-service web applications.
If digital inclusion is successful, it may also lessen the load on IT helpdesks by alleviating what support staff refer to as PEBKAC - problem exists between keyboard and chair. If the workers of tomorrow are made tech-savvy by digital inclusion, it should mean that in future IT managers have to devote fewer resources to mundane support tasks. Knowledgeable users will be more able to sort out their technical problems for themselves.