Two personal anecdotes in particular set me thinking.
Over Christmas I arranged to meet a friend. He turned up (uncharacteristically) 45 minutes late. The reason? He didn’t have a mobile phone to pay to park his car. He doesn’t hate technology – he just doesn’t own a mobile. My mum recently told me she thinks it’s no coincidence that mobile phones emerged as the rail service went downhill in this country – so people need to make the classic “I’m on the train” phonecall to alert loved ones of delays.
I really enjoyed this post by Paul Clarke on the shifts in design thinking necessary if digital by default is going to work – meaning that digital infomation delivery channels aren’t crudely bolted on to existing information systems. He crisply outlines the three choices; redesigning from the ground up, forced channel shift to digital delivery by removal on non-digital choices, and thirdly making digital channels more attractive than non-digital channels.
The Cabinet Office are doing some nice work on making government services accessible and usable on a variety of platforms – the Gov.uk beta site is a vast improvement on Direct Gov. But good design may not be enough.
If we take it as a given that for economic reasons digital by default is happening, how are vulnerable groups (such as the young people not in education, employment or training my research is concerned with) going to be mediating their relationships with government agencies? If you don’t have the cash to pay for mobile data and you don’t have home internet access are you no longer entitled to receive information from government agencies?