Skip to main content
RISE logo

Involve users in the design of digital services

Society's e-services are for everyone but miss a large part of the target group. Our oldest citizens in particular do not take full advantage of digitalization. Services need to be developed to a greater extent for those who have the most difficulty in using the solutions.
“Think more norm-critically,” urges Melinda From, innovation and process leader at RISE.

One of the most difficult things seems to be building digital services for the elderly. The latest annual report on Swedes and the Internet (Svenskarna och internet) summarizes the situation as follows:

  • Fewer than half of those born in the 1920s and 30s have used e-services in the past year.
  • 6 out of 10 can't log in to online public health services without help.
  • Among the oldest, only one in three thinks that e-services make things easier.

These kinds of issues are often mentioned. Digital exclusion in Sweden is primarily driven by age. No wonder, perhaps, because when the Internet had a broader impact in the mid-1990s, this group was already in their 60s and 70s. Factors such as level of education, income, disabilities and place of birth also have an impact. In short, things that deviate from the norm.

“If you look at who builds our digital solutions today, just over 80 percent of the world's developers are men,” says Melinda From at RISE “Of those, 75 percent are white with origins in Europe or North America. It is obvious that this group will be very homogeneous.

“We see signs of this in our digital products. For example, voice control that works better for men or facial recognition that works well with light faces but worse with other skin tones.”

Melinda From believes that our services sync better with the norm if they are also based on the norm, and therein the problem.

“Instead, we should develop for those who have the most difficulty using these services.”

We sometimes digitalize in absurdum when we should instead start from people's needs

Need to find alternative paths

As a service designer with an eye for what norms can do, Melinda From lists several examples of solutions that go wrong. Sometimes it is previously collected data that distorts the design, sometimes it is not a given that a digital service solves the whole problem but instead locks out people who lack the BankID service or sufficient computer skills.

“Somewhere there must be alternative paths. We sometimes digitalize in absurdum when we should instead start from people's needs.

This applies to both the private and public sectors, and as a resident and taxpayer, one might feel that the Swedish public sector should be there for the entire population,” says Melinda From. Her advice to developers is to take advantage of Sweden's anti-discrimination legislation, which lists seven different grounds for discrimination.

“A lot is gained if you consider parameters in the design phase such as gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, religion, ethnicity and transgender identity or expression. Then, of course, there are also the other perspectives that are not related to laws; urban or rural is an example,” says Melinda From.

Investment in inclusive system transition

RISE employs a number of service and interaction designers. There are also several norm-critical experts who can help in the early phases with reviews from a system perspective as well as assessing prototype solutions in ‘real life’

“We are also setting up a new unit for inclusive system transformation and innovation that will be up and running in the fall of 2022,” says Melinda From in conclusion.

Melinda From

Contact person

Melinda From


+46 10 516 56 18

Read more about Melinda

Contact Melinda
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

* Mandatory By submitting the form, RISE will process your personal data.