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Inspiring our remote workforce to help combat digital exclusion during the pandemic

Sally Caughey
12 Oct 2020

Society has undergone an accelerated digital transformation as a result of recent lockdowns, highlighting the need for organisations like ours to work harder to ensure the transformation is an inclusive one

Lack of digital skills is a material social issue in the UK. It’s not just a generational problem, it affects all ages, with the poorest often hit the hardest.

At the start of 2020, as part of our commitment to combating digital exclusion, Capgemini partnered with digital inclusion specialists Digital Unite to develop and trial a novel approach to digital skills support. The “Digital Champion Accelerator Programme” aimed to harness our own employee capabilities to build the capacity and capability of Digital Champions already active in community organisation.

Then along came Covid-19

The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the realities of not being able to get online:

  • Young people missing out on their education
  • A rising number of unemployed desperately trying to access jobs and online resources
  • The elderly separated from friends and family struggling to use tech to communicate
  • Vulnerable people shielding and unable to shop online

Covid-19 caused us to re-think the Digital Champions model. We realised that our plans were rooted in supporting these Champions in extending and improving their community reach through a physical, location based model. The community needs continue but we lacked the mechanism to help address them.

Engaging a remote workforce

As an organisation of almost 8000 UK employees we had been able to transition to nearly 100% remote working almost overnight.  So, we decided to use our ability for remote collaboration – and the fact our employees were working from home to create a community-based response to the digital skills challenges, focusing on friends, families and local community groups in the areas where we live.

We wanted to use this experience to create an equally rapid response for those who needed it most by sharing the skills we take for granted every day. Working with Digital Unite we realised that:

  • Our people had the skills but lacked knowledge of the issue and the confidence to offer help
  • Everyone in Capgemini has something to offer
  • We bring a different perspective through our natural proactivity and interest in innovation

Together we created Inspire – a learning and engagement initiative designed to galvanise action in the community across our teams while working remotely.  Arming our people with an understanding of how easy it is to help others to develop basic digital literacy skills, and building on their natural creativity, proactivity and passion for helping others, we have created a model that can have exponential impact.  This is also a great starting point for many of our employees who may later go on to be longer term supporters of Digital Champions.

The simple things matter

What we’ve realised through our work with Digital Unite, is that a small act of sharing the skills and knowledge we take for granted every day can make a huge difference to someone.

You may not know that you’re already doing it. How many of us have helped a family member, neighbour or colleague adjust and use digital tools during the pandemic? Simple things like showing someone how to use Zoom, pay bills online, and use Google to find information.

The knowledge that this is what digital skills volunteering means – you don’t need to be an expert to help someone – is game changing. Through our Inspire training programme, we’re equipping our people with this knowledge and giving them an understanding of how basic digital exclusion can be.

A pledge to help out

Across the business our people are now pledging to help with:

  • Confidence – encouraging some of the 11m people who can’t use the internet without help to experiment and try new things, such as online shopping
  • Staying connected – helping to combat loneliness
  • Getting access to basic services, such as health, financial and benefits
  • Improving job prospects – accessing opportunities and new skills

It’s inclusive for society and inclusive for our people: everyone can get involved.

Just the start

Better still, the Inspire model is scalable. So, this is just the start of our journey. We’re looking at how we can share Inspire with our charity networks and clients.

From the outset of our partnership with Digital Unite we knew we were proposing something different. We wanted to bring corporate skills to help charities scale and extend their reach.  Now through Inspire we’re aiming to help more employers support more local communities as we all get to grips with new ways of working remotely and all that comes with it.

Find out more

To find out more about the work of Digital Unite here, and read our CR&S report to find out more about our overall approach to Digital Inclusion.