Local government has been urged to reach out to the “digitally deprived” if it is to help Whitehall cut the number of people not currently online.
A new study by research consultancy CACI has claimed, for example, that as few as 15% of people in certain locales (including Sandwell, Knowsley, Hull, Leicester and Stevenage) access council services via the Internet.
At 15% that’s the lowest percentage in the country – but the highest still isn’t that great:
In the London boroughs Kensington and Chelsea, it has hit 27.5% - that still means less than half of people in these areas are utilising online local authority facilities.
According to CACI, councils need to find new ways to engage local people, including those who have never used a smartphone, sent an email or used the Internet.
“Local authorities under pressure to ‘embrace the digital age’ must plan services carefully to ensure they do not leave digitally deprived consumers behind,” claimed Patrick Tate, the firm’s associate director of its location planning group.
“Moving services online present opportunities to reduce costs while widening access, but only if it is done in a way that engages whole communities,” Tate added.
The director also added that to save money in the long run, local government needs to invest in ensuring those who are not yet online are not left behind.
“They need to identify those groups in their community that are digitally disengaged, be prepared to engage with them locally, be it the community centre or bingo hall and be proactive in providing advice and opportunities for education,” claimed Tate.
Whitehall released a digital inclusion strategy earlier this this month with the aim of reducing the number of people still offline by a quarter in the next two years.