How to empower digitally vulnerable people? Co-designing policies and services with end-users
Authors: Kristina Reinsalu
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to analyze impactful methods to address citizens who are excluded from digital transformation. These are citizens whose digital engagement in political decision-making and e-services is hindered by their lack of access to technological benefits, a lack of awareness of digital issues, and/or a lack of digital literacy and skills. With the unprecedented speed of digital developments in many countries around the world, digital vulnerability affects not only specific demographics or what we may have traditionally considered vulnerable (e.g., older people) but anybody who could be digitally vulnerable due to their circumstances. The more deeply affected are those societies that are extra vulnerable and already damaged, such as economically, in terms of security, or due to war. Therefore, the case studies of this paper focus on Ukraine and Georgia, where digital development has been relatively rapid and there has been a lot of emphasis on e-services; however, less attention has been paid to addressing the digital divide and social aspects of these countries. Applying the theory of change, design thinking, and service and process design is not a new or revelatory approach; however, these concepts have, so far, been applied primarily in the business sector. This study argues that this approach could be successfully implemented in other sectors of society and by various stakeholders to tackle arduous challenges and problems. The current extraordinary circumstances occurring in Ukraine, but also the context of Georgia, increase the need for a novel approach to tackle digital vulnerability. Thus, this paper analyzes how a business-like approach, which is a new concept in the countries included in this study, helps to impactfully identify the most vulnerable citizens, and how to design processes, services, and policies to empower and engage with these citizens.
Keywords: empowerment, digitally vulnerable citizens, theory of change, service, and process design
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