Addressing the digital divide

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Andy Young

July 25, 2022

6 mins read

The digital world can be hard for some people to get their head around and can sometimes make things like planning their future feel overwhelming. Andy Young, Head of Digital and User Experience at Phoenix Group, explains what we're doing to help address the digital divide, build your members' confidence 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.

And while many of us have taken steps to embrace the digital evolution, recent research undertaken by Phoenix Group shows that, for many people, there's still a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding going digital.

Doing what we can to bridge the digital divide is an important part of our 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 build members' confidence 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.

Good Things Foundation, a leading charitable organisation in this space, note that a person who lacks digital skills and access is more likely to have a lower life expectancy, poorer health, suffer from social isolation and loneliness and have less access to educational and employment opportunities.

I see a great opportunity here for us to use our resources and ingenuity to join the challenge of reducing the divide for our customers and the community. 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 our 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 proposition plays a vital role. We'll continue to enhance the guidance, tools and journeys available to your members to make it easier to plan for the future at a time and place that's convenient for them.

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

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

It's also important to note that, as an employer, Phoenix Group have the responsibility to further invest in this space. We want to make sure that our colleagues feel ready to embrace new opportunities in and outside of work and by putting all of our brands in first position to adopt exciting new experiences and capabilities for our customers.

What does being 'digital first' mean and how are you improving the digital skills of 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 your members to access and understand their pensions and savings – our Standard Life app has a 4.7 star rating on the Apple app store and we see 900,000 online sessions a month. We're also 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 there is access to three guides:

You can watch the video versions of these guides on the our 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 your members to keep up with the pace of our ever-evolving technology.

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

The word digital doesn't have to be scary. However, we do recognise that 'digital' and many other words used when explaining the digital world can also be daunting. 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.

What is your favourite thing about Phoenix Group's digital literacy strategy?

My favourite thing 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. Digital literacy is at the heart of our ambition to help your members to achieve a lifetime of possibilities. Building our understanding in this space puts us in a really unique position to help members better understand our digital offering and thereafter their products, options and plans for the future.

It's also a space where we can aim to be market-leading and 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 member problems. We have just set two challenges to our partners FinTech Scotland and TCS COIN; the first being to make developing digital skills fun and engaging and the second around getting your members curious about managing their finances.

But we won't be stopping there. We recognise that we can have an even greater reach into addressing 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.

Is it through these partnerships that you aim to bring about social change?

It is definitely one of the routes. There are lots of amazing grassroots organisations working to tackle digital and social exclusion by providing people with the skills and confidence they need to access digital technology.

We're currently looking at partnerships to share, co-create and distribute our digital literacy resources. We'll join forces to reach and truly impact the pockets of society that lack foundational digital skills, influence policy makers and ultimately make a difference towards improving the digital divide.

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

What can people who already class themselves as 'digitally savvy' 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.

There is also the opportunity to leave feedback and let us know what you think of the resources and what you or your members would like to see in the future. Getting involved in this way will be key to us creating a digital literacy library that is fit to deliver your members' needs so we can continue to address the digital divide.

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

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