Blog: Why digital confidence matters

What does the Post Office Horizon story illustrate about digital exclusion? Here are our thoughts.

The dramatisation of the story of the Post Office Horizon scandal has caused a lot of public interest. Most of the interest is, understandably, focussed on the miscarriage of justice itself, but we think it’s inidicative of something else too.

One of the repeating threads in the drama is that postmasters frequently found the system difficult to use, and a few times alluded to “not being very digital savvy”.  In an interview with one of the people upon whom the series was based, the person said they were fine when the system was manual, but it was when the new computer system was installed that they started to see problems.

We think this illustrates hidden digital exclusion.  People have equipment to use, a connection to the internet and basic digital skills.  However, the lack of confidence led them to believe they really could be at fault even though they had done nothing wrong.

It was this same lack of confidence that would have made assertions that “no one else has this problem” feel believable, and further cement the view that it was – at least in part – their own fault.

TechResort team members spend a lot of time sitting next to people who need help in carrying out digital tasks, and this is something we see all the time.

Those of us who are very confident digital users (whatever system that might be) are much more likely to blame a website, a digital form, a system or an online process.  If we have to phone a helpline we can often articulate the problem better and suggest what might going wrong.  Even if it turns out we were at fault, we can easily move on from it and not let it deter us.

Less digitally confident people often assume they’ve got it wrong. If they access helplines they are much less likely to be able to explain the problem, and can be easily convinced by a busy helpdesk operator that it wasn’t the system at fault. The insidious part of this is that it undermines digital confidence further and makes people much less likely to use other systems.

We’d urge ALL software providers, digital service providers and testers – and particularly those systems which people have little or no choice but to use – to bear in mind that not all their users will be confident users.  Digitally unconfident users need to be considered in all aspects of accessibility testing.

If this is a subject you’d like to learn about, please do contact us.  We’re happy to help!



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