Digital exclusion user research – sharing learning from Caerphilly Council

26 August 2021

In March 2021, CDPS supported Caerphilly Council to work with two user researchers on a piece of work to understand more about why residents struggle to get online and digital exclusion. In this guest blog post, Caroline Millington from Caerphilly Council tells us a bit more about the project and what they’ve been doing.

Understanding the needs of our users – our introduction to user research

At Caerphilly Adult Community Learning (ACL) we’ve been aware for some time that some of our local resident’s struggle to get online. Anecdotally, we heard a number of reasons for this, including confidence, digital skills, and a lack of digital devices/connectivity.  For the last few years, we’ve been running digital literacy classes, free of charge and although classes have been attended, we felt we were still missing many members of the community.

To help with this we started running one-to-one Digital Literacy drop-in sessions. Funding for devices was granted from the Digital 2030 Fund and we provided the funding for the tutors. When Covid hit, sessions were put on hold, but we eventually completed the agreed round of courses in March 2021. At the end of this round, we needed to look at how we could continue to fund these sessions.

Alongside three other Local Authorities and one Leisure Trust (Aneurin Leisure, Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire and Torfaen), we bid for funding from the Local Government Digital Transformation fund to look at the issue of improving access to digital. The response was positive, but the fund asked a key question: where did we have the evidence about the user need around the digital exclusion we talked about in the application?

The fund team suggested we work with two other local authorities who had also put in bids for similar initiatives (Rhondda Cynon Taff and Vale of Glamorgan), to pull together a discovery bid based on Digital Exclusion research across the regions.  

Our joint bid was approved and we were granted funding which helped us to bring in a user researcher to carry out the digital exclusion research. With the support of the Centre for Digital Public Services we managed the procurement process using the Digital Marketplace. This was new for us, but was a much quicker process than our usual procurement procedure. By the end of the process, we had successfully appointed Izzie from Basis Ltd to carry out the research.

Our first experience of user research

This was Caerphilly ACL’s first experience of doing user research and we found it to be a really beneficial process. The other local authorities and trust already had contacts who could potentially take part in the research within their boroughs, which really helped speed things up. Izzie will explain more about this in our next blog post.  

Within Caerphilly, we made use of our contacts in the two key employability provisions as well as making new contacts across different departments (housing, benefits, communications, customer care, etc).

With the support and advice from the research team, we were able to target residents/groups most relevant to the research. From the start, Izzie ensured that contact was made and maintained with each local authority, either as a group or individually. Updates were given and plans were made at the weekly Friday afternoon sessions. Staff then went away and carried out the tasks and they were then reviewed. This kept the momentum of the research going throughout and the target groups engaged.

The findings

Our user researcher, Izzie Hurrell, will be blogging about the approach to the user research and what we learnt, but the approach meant that we were able to start to focus on the issues that users were facing rather than the things we thought might be a problem.

What’s next?

We now hope to use the research as a basis for improving our services. We want to make sure the research is used for its intended purpose and helps shape our next steps

We also want to keep the partnership of the local authorities and trust alive. We don’t know how we’ll do this yet, but we are keen to continue working together.  

Since the research was shared, we have presented the report to the Welsh Government’s Digital Inclusion Programme Board, where links were made with representatives from a number of organisations across Wales (e.g., The Older People’s Commissioners Office, Digital Communities Wales).  It is hoped that we can use these links to help push the research forward so that we can use it for its intended purpose: to make positive changes to the residents of, not only the regions, but Wales as a whole.

If you feel like you have something to share with us from your experiences, we’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or tweet us @cdps_cymru

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  1. Pauline O'Hare says:

    An excellent example of user-focused partnership working. It would be really interesting to see the research, could you tell me where it’s published please?

    1. Centre for Digital Public Services says:

      You can find the findings of the research in this report here