Telecare & Telehealth: Drivers for Digital Inclusion

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Earlier this week, I spend two days at Leeds University Business School, videoing the AKTIVE project conference “Technology, Care and Ageing: Enhancing Independence”. Although my role was to observe proceedings through the screen on the back of the camera, I found the whole event fascinating.

The conference theme was about the use of Telehealth and Telecare with older people. I got to see a lot of the conference, as I was asked to capture snippets of all the parallel workshops. As I went around the event, I heard a common theme emerging, which was repeated in a keynote presentation by Professor Heinz Wolff (pictured above). This was that it is essential to get people acquainted with unfamiliar new technologies before there comes a crisis in their lives which means they are forced to use them. There were many examples cited of people rejecting telecare equipment, or failing to use it as intended, because they were frightened of it, or at least extremely unfamiliar with it.


Esther Rantzen at AKTIVE 2014 Conference

This is a similar theme to one of my recurring mantras for Digital Inclusion, which is that people have to be introduced to new technologies in enjoyable ways and in familiar settings, before they have to use them for formal, or in this case, life-saving purposes.

There is an audioboo below, in which I captured my immediate thoughts. I think it is imperative for the Digital Inclusion and Telecare / Telehealth communities to unite around a common agenda to build familiarity with new technologies among older people for whom they can be life-enhancing, and life-saving, tools.


Posted in Digital Inclusion, Older People, Public Services, Technology and Older People | 1 Comment

Do you want to talk to others or just yourself?

This is just a quick thought stimulated by Facebook’s move to force people to use its Messenger app rather than messaging people through the general Facebook app.

I’ve seen a number of people on social media platforms grumbling about this, and suggesting it will cause them to leave Facebook. Over the years I have had loads of people telling me they want to use a particular platform because of its design. My reply to this is always that a platform can have all the perfect design features you could wish for, but, if the people you want to contact are not using it, you will be talking to yourself, not to anyone else.

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Social Media: We’re all advertisers now

I was asked to go on BBC Radio Sheffield this week to talk about how people are using social media to make public complaints about products and services. You can listen to the section from the programme below.

The item was stimulated by the story of a woman from Chesterfield who, frustrated at the lack of response to a complaint against Talk Talk, had resorted to contacting them via her dog’s Facebook account. This ensured that the company woke up and started listening to her.

I think this illustrates how social media and new technologies are now putting power in the hands of ordinary people which previously would only have been available to those with money and / or political power. All this person was doing was deploying tactics which had formerly been deployed by big companies. Remember the adverts featuring a dog tangled in toilet roll? Yes, you remember it because the company involved spent a lot of money creating those images. Now, ordinary people can disseminate images like that using social media.


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Social Media and Privacy


I am often asked about how people can protect their privacy in the age of social media. I was asked this at the NHC Digital Inclusion Conference in Manchester last Thursday, and I have been further prompted by something I saw on Twitter today from Paul Taylor.

My take on this is a bit different from the standard answers, I believe; and it is this:

  • Our modern concept of “privacy” is an anomaly in human history, which has probably only existed since the eighteenth century. Before this everyone lived in circumstances where there was no opportunity for privacy and they would have struggled to understand why it might be necessary. Social media, CCTV, and covert surveillance are all returning us to an earlier state in this respect;
  • Social media is changing society’s views about what privacy is. Eventually, we will stop being surprised and shocked at things other people do;
  • Society will get better at educating people how to protect the privacy of those things which are necessary to keep private, and many of us will learn from painful experience. That set of necessary things will be a much narrower field than what we currently think of as “privacy”.

I’d be very interested in your views on these issues

Posted in Social Media, Technology and Older People, Twitter | 3 Comments

Wifi for Hospital Patients: A Major Breakthrough

Just when I was feeling the Campaign for Free Wifi for Hospital Patients had stalled, there comes news of a major breakthrough. Prompted by Consultant Paediatrician, Sebastian Yuen, George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton has introduced free wifi. This came about after Sebastian consulted with the family of one of his patients who made a specific request, and it was introduced as an NHS Change Day pledge.

Here is a great video about it. Please spread the word and tweet about this using the hashtags #NHSwifi and #NHSChangeDay. Thank you also to Teresa Chinn for the prompt

Posted in Public Services, Wifi in Hospitals | 7 Comments


Isn’t is lovely when you get positive feedback? This is a bit more positive than I might have hoped for….

and then there was wheely.

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Using Social Media to tell the other side of the story

Reading this post this morning, on the important role that social media has played in social uprisings in Ukraine and Venezuela , made me think once again about the important opportunities which are missed by so many in the UK to tell the stories the mainstream media are not interested in.

When you are in a crisis situation like that faced by people in the Ukraine, and all the big media tools are in the hands of those you are struggling against, you can now turn to social media to get your story out. We have seen this happening during the Arab Spring and in places like Syria.

But, in Britain, this is still not happening to any significant extent. While the mainstream media uses its power to stigmatise and berate communities in programme like Benefits Street, we still see people with leadership roles in disadvantaged communities in the UK (and I am talking mainly about paid professionals here) shying away from using the tools we all have at our disposal to tell the other side of the story. Most of them will have multimedia storytelling devices (otherwise known as smartphones) in their pockets, but they don’t seem to want to use them to unleash the power of that storytelling. Is it that they don’t want to, they don’t know how to, or they are hidebound by health and safety and data protection rules from doing so?

It’s really not that hard, and I am getting increasingly frustrated about how many people are failing to realise this potential.

Here’s me talking about how I this can be done. Get in touch if you want to know more

Posted in Digital Youth Work, journalists, Leadership, Local Government, Social Media, Story-telling | 1 Comment

The Digital Inclusion Laundry

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Today we had a lovely get together of people with a stake in Digital Inclusion in Leeds. The event was held at Leeds Federated Housing Association and included an update on the HUGO project, one of whose buses is now on the road and taking digital inclusion to the city’s housing estates.

An intriguing idea was presented by John Middleton of JMT Service Ltd. He is working on a proposal for a Digital Inclusion Laundry. His idea is to turn housing association laundry facilities into internet cafes for the digitally excluded. I love this idea as it fits in with my philosophy of taking digital inclusion to where people are, not expecting them to come to you.

In the video below, John explains some of the other projects he has been involved in (as a washing machine supplier!) and then goes on to outline the Digital Inclusion Laundry proposal. Please get in touch if you can help make this idea a reality.

Posted in Digital Inclusion, Events, Housing, Innovation, Older People, Social Housing, Technology and Older People | 2 Comments

Wifi in Hospitals


This post is for the myriad of people who come to my blog looking for information on how to get online while they are in hospital. I am really sorry, that I probably won’t be able to help you.

I’ve been running the Campaign for Free Wifi in Hospitals for a number of years now. We have a Facebook Group here, and I did get a small amount of funding for the cause about three years ago. Oh, and there is a self-populating list of hospitals with wifi here. My unscientific estimate is that slightly more than a third of NHS hospitals in the UK now how wifi which is accessible to patients, sometimes free, but not always, whereas, as far as I know, 100% of private hospitals have free patient wifi.

But, I really feel for the people who come to my blog looking for information on how to connect to the outside world while they are in hospital. It is incredibly frustrating, I know, not being able to keep in touch with family, friends, and work while in a hospital ward. I wish there was more I can do. We need a co-ordinated approach to this, but no one with resources seems interested.

9th March 2014:  I’m updating this post with news of a major positive breakthrough

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Human Organisations

I’m inspired by a post written by Anne Cooper this morning about change models. Anne works in the NHS and has to deal with massive change, elements of which can be achieved using a variety of methodologies.

Personally, I get very dispirited when I see any organisation acting like it is not a collection of human beings. All that process stuff really gets me down. I am optimistic that social media is gradually changing the world so that we can get insights into the real people who work in organisations, and so that organisations can be influenced by regular interactions between the humans they deal with, whether they are customers, “service users”, or whoever, and staff.

Did you see the local resident confronting the Defence Secretary over the Government reaction to the floods? The video is below. This is an example of what I mean. This was one human demanding some human reaction from another and it got results beyond the political point scoring.

I would ask anyone who works in a big organisation to think before making a decision; what is my human instinct on this issue? We are humans at work as well as outside it. I don’t see why we should behave differently when we enter the office.

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