Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Digital inclusivity: Improving lives, no matter the generation

By Peter O’Driscoll, Managing Director, RingGo

When it comes to smartphones and digital devices blanket stereotypes are too often assigned to entire generations. For Gen Z, who have grown up with smartphones, there is a perception that they are hooked on their personal devices, forever heads down in the latest social media trend. Conversely, their grandparents – those over 65, are often labelled as resistant to today’s technologies, being unwilling or unable to use them.

However, as our recent research has shown, almost nine-in-ten Brits over 65 rate their ability to use a smartphone as good or very good, with the same number saying that smartphones make their lives significantly better. For example, almost half said that smartphones made everyday necessities such as travel and transportation easier. The Luddite stereotype of today’s older generations is false, and that this misconception is unfair.

Even though the older generation is increasingly embracing digital technology, they also reported feelings of frustration with the stereotypes that continue to cloud them. For example, almost two-thirds believed the depiction of their relationship with technology in media was either negative or ambivalent. At the same time, nearly half have been made to feel frustrated, silly or angry by younger people patronising their ability to use their phones.

Perhaps compounding this issue is the fact that for nearly one-in-four, the feeling of too many apps for different services tarnished their experience of smartphones. Similarly, over half said they would appreciate help setting up new apps on their smartphones, pointing to the fact that an explosion of numerous apps may be hindering rather than helping this generation make the most of their digital tools.

An inclusive, integrated experience across all ages

The experience of older smartphone users is increasingly important as more and more daily services become digitalised, with the ageing population increasing exponentially. While this digitalisation brings myriad benefits it is also vital that service providers approach digital strategies with an inclusive mindset, understanding and including the needs of all generations in digital service design and delivery.

That not only means designing apps with the accessibility features older generations need (e.g. thoughtful UI design for reduced vision capabilities) but also ensuring that, wherever possible, apps and services are integrated. Greater integration smooths the flow of digital services, as seen in Google Maps increasing its partnerships with service providers such as Bolt.

For example, among the top smartphone uses for older people is  providing assistance with travel, directions and traffic. This can include routing, traffic and congestion alerts, parking assistance and payment – and increasingly, EV charging point information. Each facet of a journey today could potentially involve a separate app. Imagine, however, being able to use one integrated app for all portions of your transportation needs. Parking services integrated into maps, for example.

Not just that, but with the explosion of in-car technology the car is turning into a ‘smartphone on wheels’. With integrated, smart consoles our cars are increasingly tech-enhanced machines which can leverage numerous digital services to improve safety, sustainability and convenience. For all drivers, not just those in older generations, the future of the car is smart, connected and integrated. However, none of these benefits will be truly realised until service providers, infrastructure operators, public services and software developers work together to ensure deep connectedness.

Parking as a case-in-point

One clear example of inconvenient app-spread is within parking – which also represents an example of how future integration will help enhance services for all users.

Drivers have embraced digital parking payment options as a convenient way to park and it is increasingly considered the norm. However, with numerous apps for different parking operators across the country, there is the issue of users requiring multiple apps to achieve the same simple goal – paying for parking.

This could be alleviated by the adoption of an Open Market for parking – multiple cashless parking solutions  operating in the same area. As part of the National Parking Platform’s first Open Market rollouts, motorists across Manchester and Oxfordshire (as well as similar initiatives, such as those seen in Aberdeenshire, Cambridgeshire and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) can choose to pay for parking through RingGo and other providers. Not only does this remove the need for multiple apps (users simply choose their preferred provider) but it also incentivises parking service providers to innovate and offer the best possible experience to all users.

Capitalising on this, an Open Market will also help ensure parking providers and third parties can securely share and access data, driving better digital services and wider integration – a win-win for all. For example, open data in the form of a central hub will equip customers with vital information about a range of services designed to build convenience into their journeys; EV chargers, accessibility for disabled drivers, and air quality information, to name but a few.

By bringing together inclusive digital design, integrated services, smart use of data and an Open Market model, it will be possible to revolutionise parking and create a model of tomorrow’s digital services that answers the needs of the whole population. Everyday conveniences prove the case for our digital world, and by thinking holistically about how services interact, and what users really want, we can make a digital society really work for all.