Purposefully designed solutions can help people– even those with very low literacy levels and nascent technology skills—navigate digital spaces and benefit from relevant applications, such as those that connect users to health services, support refugees or help farmers improve productivity.
This publication puts forward guidelines to help today’s technology pioneers build more inclusive digital solutions. They show private sector companies, NGOs, international organizations and governments what factors to consider, questions to ask and processes to follow when developing solutions for people with limited literacy skills and low digital skills (referred to as ‘low-skilled users’ in the context of this publication).
The recommendations are general and do not attempt to speak to the full range of possible and existing digital solutions. Rather they provide orientation and guidance to developers, donors and other stakeholders who are working to help people unfamiliar with technology find and use digital tools for empowerment and enrichment. Establishing digital entry points for people with limited literacy and limited digital skills creates a virtuous cycle that accelerates learning and development, benefiting individuals and strengthening communities and livelihoods. This publication draws on two years of background research and is informed by and complements similar toolkits and recommendations, including the Principles for Digital Development as well as resources from the GSMA and IDEO.
How the guidelines were developed
The guidelines are an output of a collaboration between UNESCO, Pearson and Project Literacy to investigate, document, and share strategies to make digital solutions more inclusive for people with limited literacy and limited digital skills. They were developed through a systematic process, starting with the drafting of the UNESCO landscape review Digital Inclusion for Low-Skilled and Low-Literate People (UNESCO, 2018). After a global call for proposals, fourteen projects from around the world were selected to be featured as case studies for their innovative approaches to digital inclusion. Collectively the case studies offer practical tips, insights and recommendations for greater inclusion. Both the case studies and the landscape review underpin the guidelines presented in this publication. To ensure the guidelines represent a wide range of perspectives, a consultation process was followed to receive input from an international expert group and the general public. UNESCO also elicited feedback on a draft version of the guidelines at the 2018 UNESCO Mobile Learning Week conference. The UNESCO-Pearson partnership will share and promote the guidelines to inform the work of digital solution providers, implementation and donor agencies, development partners. The partnership will further work to help governments establish policy conditions that encourage the inclusive use of technology.
The primary target audiences for the guidelines are digital solution providers – from tech giants to startups and NGOs – and implementation and development partners, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, the German development agency), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which can shape the terms of reference for digital solution How to use the guidelines The target audience is encouraged to implement UNESCO’s guidelines at appropriate points in the digital product development cycle, tailoring them as necessary to reflect the unique needs and on-the- ground realities of local contexts. development. Government agencies that support the design and development of digital solutions are also targeted, as well as technology incubators and accelerators. The secondary audience includes policy-makers – who could use the guidelines to create inclusive policies and regulatory frameworks – and mobile network operators and technology providers – to create enabling environments for greater digital inclusion for all.
How to use the guidelines
The target audience is encouraged to implement UNESCO’s guidelines at appropriate points in the digital product development cycle, tailoring them as necessary to reflect the unique needs and on-the- ground realities of local contexts. It is recommended that these guidelines be read alongside the UNESCO Landscape Review (UNESCO, 2018) and the accompanying set of fourteen case studies. A toolkit with additional resources that complement the guidelines is also being developed.