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Using embedded outreach to bridge the digital divide

Ian Agnew (Chief Executive, Digital Outreach, Glossop, UK)
Laura Ripper (Programme Support Officer at Digital Outreach, Glossop, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 16 September 2011




This paper has been written to highlight new ways to increase digital inclusion, specifically getting a greater number of older people to use the internet as part of their daily lives. It aims to profile a new engagement technique called “embedded outreach” and seeks to discuss the impact this technique has on tackling digital exclusion.


Data was gathered via a baseline survey at the beginning of the sessions to measure 895 attendees' existing web use and attitudes to the internet. A follow‐up survey of 295 older people two months later captured any change in use and attitude as a result of the sessions. A secondary follow‐up survey measured the legacy of the sessions.


The embedded outreach model was effective in breaking through many of the multiple barriers which prevent older people from using the web. Data showed that using existing voluntary sector infrastructure was key to reaching people.

Research limitations/implications

Owing to timescales, only one session was delivered to each group. If the project had been carried out over a longer duration then repeat sessions could have been delivered to the groups and results measured.


A wide range of schemes support older people to get online yet most rely on “pull” techniques – where participants have to seek out opportunities. There has been little research into techniques that use existing voluntary sector infrastructure to bring the web to older people.



Agnew, I. and Ripper, L. (2011), "Using embedded outreach to bridge the digital divide", Working with Older People, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 127-134.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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