Ensuring access to information and services in a digital age: Guidance for Local Authorities and Health Boards
The increasing use of digital technology means that the ways in which we access services and information, and the ways we communicate, have changed significantly in recent years.
This change has accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a range of new digital services now being delivered by public bodies throughout Wales.
However, the pandemic has also highlighted a stark digital divide in Wales, and older people have shared concerns with the Commissioner about accessing information and services as more has gone online.
Whilst moving services online and introducing new ways of interacting with the public can offer potential benefits to those who can access them – reducing the need to travel to an appointment, for example – it is also important to recognise the risk of excluding those who do not want to, or are unable to, access services in this way, which includes a considerable number of older people.
The change we are seeing across our public services therefore brings with it a need to ensure that people are not excluded, and to reach out to help those who might need extra support to access services.
As set out in greater detail in the section on the legal and policy frameworks, the right to access information is a key element of the broader right to freedom of expression and is protected across several human rights instruments, including the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act 1998.
The purpose of these human rights instruments is to support a culture of respect for everyone’s human rights and ensure that promoting and upholding these rights is a feature of everyday life.
The move to ‘digital first’ seen across our public services must be accompanied by measures to ensure that the human rights of older people are protected and that they are enabled to access
information and get to the services they need by offline channels, or should they choose, are supported to gain the skills and confidence to be able to connect online.
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