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GDS creates outcomes framework for digital inclusion

Government Digital Service (GDS) launches Digital Inclusion Outcomes Framework to act as a template for digital inclusion evaluation

A Digital Inclusion Outcomes Framework has been launched by the Government Digital Service (GDS) to help track digital inclusion in the UK.

GDS hopes this can act as a single tool for evaluating local and UK-wide activities to measure the level of digital inclusion and promote the growing need for it.

The framework can be used to track the progress that is being made to achieve a higher level of digital inclusion across the country.

“Digital inclusion is increasingly important to enable all citizens to participate actively in society and to access digital services, products and networks,” said Lauren Kahn, head of strategy in the digital inclusion team at GDS, in a blog post.

“However, one in five adults in the UK remain offline or lack the basic digital skills needed to realise the benefits of being online. And digital inequalities persist, following and reinforcing lines of social inequality.”

But it will take a lot of investment in technologies and services to reach the 20% of the population who are still unable to use digital – an investment that many are unable to justify in times of austerity.

“By investing in digital inclusion, we can support better economic, health and social outcomes for these groups and a more equitable society,” said Kahn.

“We know that engaging this hard to reach final fifth of the population will require significant investment. To justify investment at a time when resources are scarce, and ensure it is optimised, we need to know what works in delivering outcomes, and to track progress towards them.”

The framework aims to make it easier to assess the UK’s digital inclusion progress in a consistent manner through long or short-term studies, measuring projects by value given to the specific community rather than volume.

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Three key elements of the framework – outcomes, indicators and data – will measure progress made by particular organisations in improving lives by developing its digital reach.

Outcomes are the starting point of the framework and determine whether particular initiatives fall under the category of a digital outcome, economic outcome or health and social outcome – depending on the project’s aim.

Indicators are provided as a specific way of measuring the process of digital outcomes, and data is a source of evidence that a positive change has been made.

Data collected through the framework will then be visualised on a dashboard to display the progress made for digital inclusion across the UK.

The framework breaks each of these categories down into separate departmental tasks, making it easy to work on specific areas and monitor what changes are occurring.

The framework gives proposed measurements to determine whether a digital outcome is being met – for example, the outcome of “all citizens can access the net” can be measured based upon percentage of increased households with internet access, percentage increase of adults using mobile technology to access the net and increase of the number of people who intend to gain access to the internet in the next year.

“In the long run, use of comparable and impact-based metrics across projects will make it easier to share learning and best practice, and build towards a shared evidence base about what works,” said Khan. “For the first time, we’ll be able to track comprehensively and robustly the progress we are making as a society in achieving digital inclusion.”

The government has taken some hits recently surrounding its digital by default approach, as many are concerned that making core services digital will stretch the digital divide even further.

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