Addressing the digital divide

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Andy Young

July 13, 2022

6 mins read

These days digital access and skills are an essential part of everyday life. So it’s important that you feel confident and able to use digital technology to get the most out of your savings and your future. 

Andy Young, Head of Digital and User Experience at Phoenix Group, explains what we’re doing to address the digital divide, help build digital confidence for our customers who need it and pave the way for a more digital-savvy future.

Digital is everywhere. We use it to work, socialise, order our favourite food and even to plan for our futures.

However, recent research undertaken by Phoenix Group shows that, for many people, there’s still a certain about of support needed to help build digital skills.

Doing what we can to bridge the digital divide is an important part of Phoenix Group’s ambition to help all of our customers to unlock a lifetime of possibilities. We spoke to Andy Young to find out what his team are doing to help our customers feel more confident when navigating the world of digital technology.

Standard Life is part of Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business. This gives us access to experts across the group, like Andy Young.

First, what is the digital divide?

The digital divide refers to different levels of ability to access and use the internet and digital devices to manage or make daily tasks easier and more convenient. 

There are 10 million people in the UK who need extra support to navigate today’s digital world. That’s about one in every six people who need help to use the technology needed to access information and services. 

I see a great opportunity here for Phoenix Group to use our resources and skills to give that support to our customers who need it and help them feel more confident. That’s why we have placed supporting those who need some extra help with their digital skills at the heart of our sustainability strategy.

What drives you to help to fix the digital divide?

Among Phoenix Group’s core values is helping people to enjoy a life full of possibilities. We want to help more people on their journey to and through retirement, and our digital services play a vital role. We’ll continue to enhance the guidance, tools and journeys available to our customers to make it easier for them to plan for their financial future at a time and place that’s convenient for them. 

In a recent customer survey undertaken by Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, over a quarter of our customers who classed themselves as ‘likely to require access to a digital skills service’ also said that ‘completing financial transactions online’ was an area where they needed extra support.

We realise that digital can be a barrier for someone who finds it difficult to access, navigate and understand digital technology. So, as we develop our digital offering, we want to make sure that we consider the needs of those customers who find it difficult to engage digitally by delivering digital solutions that are easily accessible for everyone, including those with vulnerabilities.

What does being ‘digital first’ mean and how are you improving the digital skills of your customers, colleagues and communities?

Being a digital-first organisation means we’re committed to using technology to benefit our customers, colleagues and the community. This includes developing a user-friendly app for Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, for customers to access and understand their pensions and savings, and working with the likes of Digital Accessibility Centre to make sure we’re meeting the highest accessibility standards across our digital platforms.

Right now we’re developing a digital literacy library which includes videos and documents that teach foundational digital skills. Our library is open to all and right now you can access three guides: 

You can watch the video versions of these guides on the Standard Life website. Once you’ve had a look we’d love to hear your feedback on our first materials, helping us to shape our next steps. 

By starting with the foundations, we can then build on this to teach skills to use more complex digital services and platforms, allowing our customers to keep up with the pace of our ever-evolving technology. 

How are you making your digital literacy resources easy to follow?

We recognise that some of the language used when explaining the digital world can be confusing. That’s why our digital literacy library will be easy to understand and use more simplified language and avoid technical jargon. We’re also committed to using simple, clear language across all of our digital platforms to make sure they’re accessible to all.

We’re also here to listen and find out what challenges people are facing in the battle against the digital divide and work with the right organisations to find solutions, using our resources and connections through the Innovation Forum.

There may be customers reading this who are already ‘digitally savvy’. What can they do to help address the digital divide?

Addressing the digital divide can start in our own homes. Introducing our digital literacy resources to family or friends who are less digitally confident, or even opening the conversation is a great start.

Don’t forget about the opportunity to leave feedback and let us know what you think of the resources and what you would like to see in the future. 

What’s next for Phoenix Group and Standard Life?

What excites me most is the amount we can learn from engaging with our customers and wider society, including some incredible charities, as we continue to build in this space. Building our understanding in this space puts us in a really unique position to support our customers to better understand our digital offering and thereafter their products, options and plans for the future. 

It’s also a space where we can be really innovative in the things that we build. An exciting example is the recent launch of our Innovation Forum where we bring together the ingenuity of the tech world to provide new technological solutions to customer problems. We have just set two challenges to our partners FinTech Scotland and TCS COIN; the first being a challenge to make developing digital skills fun and engaging and the second around getting our customers curious about managing their finances.

But we won't be stopping there. We recognise that we can have an even greater reach into improving the digital divide in local communities across the UK. Which is why we’re looking into new partnerships with charities that support vulnerable individuals, with the aim to not only share our digital literacy resources, but to provide tailor-made solutions that will enhance digital and financial skills.

The information here is based on our understanding in June 2022 and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice.

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