Digital Inclusion Approaches: The Bigger Picture.

I recently interviewed John Popham, about his views on the UK digital exclusion landscape as part of my research. Hearing about John’s experiences provided me with valuable insights into the ‘bigger picture’ of digital exclusion and the common themes, problems and approaches to digital inclusion strategies.

John has been involved in community development through social media throughout his career. He has also worked on a number of  projects specifically for digital inclusion, such as the recent Digital Planet initiative, which toured the UK in 2012. What was particularly valuable about hearing his experience, is that as an independent stakeholder in the digital exclusion landscape, he sees potential for different approaches to digital exclusion services, when compared to the UK governments own assistive-digital service approaches that are currently in the progress of being developed.

These are the key points that emerged from our discussion:

  1. Digital services are a positive step, however ‘Digital by Default’ is rushed and is primarily aimed at cutting costs. It is ‘shoehorning’ people into very specific frameworks.
  2. There are no independent services for digital services which offer advice and after support.
  3. Those naturally excluded from technology and the web will need long term support in order to stay digitally fluent (it’s like learning a language)
  4. Two key reasons for some peoples reluctance to go online are privacy and fear. An empathetic and educational approach is needed to assist with this which is non-patronising.
  5. Using technology is fun but a lot of the assistive digital initiatives don’t approach ICT and digital inclusion in this way. If people can see that going online is not meant to be hard work or a punishment, then it can only be a good thing.
  6. Communicating the pace and change of technology is a problem in itself. Older generations are not accustomed to the idea of built in obsolete products. Why isn’t there a way to make old technology serviceable again? It would be more sustainable.
  7. Making technology a seamless part of peoples daily life’s could help assist them to do digital services.Recent I-Pad and touchscreen interfaces are an example of new technologies which have broken down barriers some people had previously experienced due to the restrictive design of a traditional computer keyboard.
  8. Digital Planet which went out directly to people, is an examples of an initiative which used a process of listening, not being prescriptive and also of focussing on individuals hobbies. They found that three popular activities people wanted to learn more about were online shopping, communicating with family and setting up email addresses.

For more information on John’s work, click here.

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