Understanding the costs and challenges of the digital divide through UK council services

Harvey, Morgan and Hastings, David P and Chowdhury, Gobinda (2021) Understanding the costs and challenges of the digital divide through UK council services. Journal of Information Science, 49 (5). pp. 1153-1167. ISSN 0165-5515 (https://doi.org/10.1177/01655515211040664)

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This study investigates the issue of digital exclusion resulting from the digitisation of government and council services within the United Kingdom. An initial analysis of customer support log data from a council in a large UK city helped identify the most commonly queried services and modes of support. The main findings are based on qualitative analysis of 10 interviews, structured around the results from the log analysis, conducted with front-line staff members at the central library of the same council. The study identifies a range of issues associated with the provision of e-government services and the subsequent under-utilisation by the public, including poor design, issues with effective access and the level of digital literacy among end users. The study also proposes the concept of the ‘digital carer’, a friend or family member who is relied upon by users unable to interact with e-government services themselves. The findings of this study have implications for the way in which these services are designed and delivered and point to the need for further work that can contribute to the UK digital economy by facilitating better access to e-government services and reduce digital exclusion, especially for elderly and marginalised users.