A short report about digital inclusion and information seeking from Healthwatch Devon
What we did
We sent out just under 200 postal surveys to our supporters. We wanted to find out from people what they thought the barriers were for them, to using the internet. We selected addresses from different parts of Devon where we were fairly confident people would get a broadband signal, although this was difficult to pinpoint using the information we had to hand. We wanted to reach people who we thought were able to get a signal but nevertheless either chose not to use the internet or were unable or reluctant to use the internet for reasons other than availability of signal.
Why we did this work
Devon County Council and the voluntary sector are working together to find out how best to ensure people are able to access advice and information about local care services. Many people now use the internet as part of their information seeking behaviour, and should be encouraged to do so by service providers wherever appropriate and possible. For some people this way of seeking information and advice is very challenging for a variety of reasons.
As a statutory information and advice provider we felt it was important to survey people in our network who have requested postal information, to help find out what their needs are when they try to find information, and how they view the internet. If we can help people explain and understand barriers to internet use, by finding out from our network, what those barriers might be, then we hope that information will help Devon County Council to design information strategies accordingly, that cater for those offline and online – but get more people online who might be reluctant for some reason. The results will also help Healthwatch Devon to think more about how we offer our services.
- For advice and information to be considered reliable it should help the individual to form a picture of what to expect from a service as well as their rights and entitlements.
- Information and advice givers need to be good communicators, listening and talking with interest, being reassuring and responsive.
- If engaged with services people will use their main service provider (e.g. GP, social worker etc) as the main point of contact for information. These providers need to know where to refer people for further information.
- The information has to be from “close to home” to be considered relevant and reliable.
- Time is a factor: people can get answers quicker if they call someone than if they use the net. This might be due to slow connection, trust (in the information provider), or IT skills and abilities.
- A minority of people said they would ask a digitally connected family friend or neighbour for help.
This “positive deviance” should be explored further to help people develop effective strategies to increase access to advice and information.