Get ePrepared: Increasing digital inclusion through legal preparedness

29 Jan 2024

As disasters and crises compound, emergency preparedness is becoming a year-round consideration. Alongside logistical planning like physical safety, preserving important items, and evacuation arrangements, it’s important for people to be legally prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

Every day, our lawyers see the legal issues that are caused or exacerbated when a person experiences a disaster. The recent Public Understand of Law Survey (PULS) uncovered that people affected by disaster were more likely to report multiple problems and problem clusters, which last longer and require greater use of services (legal and non-legal) (Public Understanding of Law Survey, Volume 1 ).

In partnership with Telstra, Justice Connect has built a new online self-help tool to support Australians to Get ePrepared for a disaster. Get ePrepared is designed to coach people through how to store electronic copies of important documents, in case they are needed in an emergency.

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Building digital literacy in an increasingly digital world

As online technology becomes more commonplace, digital tools serve a vital role in empowering people to interact with the services in their lives. However, the proliferation of technology also results in the exclusion of people with lower levels of digital inclusion, such as older people, people in regional or rural areas, or people whose primary income is government payments.

Justice Connect has years of experience in building digital tools that allow people to better access pathways to justice. From our award-winning Dear Landlord to our online tools for community organisations, technology has allowed us to scale our legal supports and empower people to take actionable steps forward in legal issues they may be facing. Get ePrepared marks our next step in our ecosystem of digital tools, focused on building digital inclusion through legal preparedness.

By coaching people through common digital processes, like saving documents to the cloud, we stand to empower more people to bring these digital skills into other areas of their lives, building confidence to engage with the digital world and access more support services.

Electronic documents as legal preparedness

Prevention of and preparation for legal issues plays an important role in access to justice, by reducing or easing eventual levels of legal need. When legal issues arise, having documents that prove a person’s identity, place of residence, or assets is a key part of many legal responses or actions available. But if these important documents are lost, damaged, or can’t be found quickly after a disaster, it can add even more difficulty at an already stressful time.

Therefore, having important documents saved electronically can help reduce this stress and kickstart legal preparedness for a disaster or emergency. Making this process available in a supportive, interactive online tool serves as a tangible first step people can take in their journey, and set them up to minimise the stress and anxiety they may face during a disaster event.

Incorporating lived experience

Get ePrepared was created by Justice Connect’s award-winning Innovation and Engagement Team. We took a trauma-informed approach, speaking to people with lived experience of emergencies to learn about their needs, and ensure the tool was co-designed with the people who will be using it. As a result of the insights gained, we built the tool with an emphasis on incorporating the element of choice, and pathways to local, place-based support.

One key way we have incorporated choice is by building the learning elements through digital ‘guides’. Modelled off common attitudes towards technology, each storage solution (cloud, USB, email, or a local device) is shown through the lens of a person with a real name, face, and experience, allowing users to identify themselves within the guides.

We also chose to package the information in multiple formats, to accommodate a variety of learning styles and accessibility needs. Users can either follow the step-by-step instructions written on the webpage, download the instructions as a PDF to save for later, or listen to the instructions in audio form. Each format allows users to work at their own pace, and develop their skills in a way that feels comfortable and familiar to them.

Finally, we have incorporated place-based local support through both the tool’s content and outreach approach. The Pro Bono Centre’s recommendations for response to disasters include recognising and working with locally-led, place-based support in coordinating disaster preparedness and response. (Pro Bono Response to Natural Disasters) Acknowledging this, we have included a range of offramps to local disaster legal help avenues across Australia, and are working with local community hubs such as neighborhood houses, men’s sheds, and local libraries to promote opportunities to use the tool and access further support.

Building a more digitally included Australia

Our work on Get ePrepared has just begun. Alongside the release of tool, we are embarking on extensive online and offline outreach to ensure the tool is found by the people who need it. We have also set up robust feedback mechanisms, including surveys and website analytics to ensure we can remain responsive to user trends and make iterative improvements to meet user needs.

With the generous support of Telstra, we are working to support 55,000 people across Australia to increase their digital literacy, by mid-2025.

Learn more about Telstra’s work building Australians’ digital skills and confidence to they can take part in the online world. 

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