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.

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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.

 

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.

Another Sociable Organisation

I spent a very enjoyable day today delivering some social media training to the Muir Group Housing Association at their head office in Chester. Muir Group is an organisation that has aspirations to be a sociable organisation, and today was a step along that road. They have senior buy-in, indeed Catherine Dixson, the Chief Executive of the Group was on the training course herself.

Introducing the day, Sam Scott said they had asked me in because they didn’t want a PR person’s perspective on social media, they wanted someone who could help them empower individuals within the organisation to tell stories about what they do, and celebrate the benefits they bring to people’s lives on a daily basis.

They really are a lovely group of people to work with, and I look forward to following their progress as they embed public, online, conversations across the organisation.

Here are some tweets from the day:

 

Social Media and Social Change – reaching the people at the top

This is a response to a plaintive tweet from Shirley Ayres reproduced above. I share Shirley’s frustration. We’ve been using social media for getting on for 10 years now. It is not new, but many organisations still treat it as a weird innovation to be distrusted and feared. This is costing them money and causing their service users to suffer.

Many of us have been chipping away at this fear and reluctance, usually from the bottom-up. Where we have failed in large part is in getting to the people at the top, those still wedded to old-style command-and-control management methodologies; those who were already in a senior position before the first computer entered their workplace; and those who still get their PAs to print off their emails. This has to change.

I’m going to do something about this. And this is what:

  • I’m going to try to crystallise the informal community of social good innovators I am connected to via Twitter – I suggest an online community (maybe a Ning) acting as a resource bank for innovation good practice, a source of mutual support, and a rallying point for action;
  • I am going to work with this community of people to try to get us speaking slots at big conferences where the senior people go. I am thinking of conferences like SOLACE and ADASS ;
  • I am going to lobby for funding for this network. Shirley has a really good idea where this can come from below.

Who’s up for this approach? Maybe it’s all happening already. If it is, please let me now. Duplicated effort wold be wasteful.

HUGO Launch – all events should be like this

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I believe in practicing what you preach. And yesterday was a prime example of that. I did one of my presentations about Digital Storytelling and its role in digital inclusion at the launch of the HUGO project in Leeds. As I usually do, I focused on the fun and joy that is to be had out of using the internet, and how the best method for getting those on board who don’t use it is to focus on the enjoyment, entertainment and education they are missing out on. And I am really proud of the people I am working with at Leeds Federated Housing Association, particularly Sue Jennings and Keilly Harrower, for making the launch event the embodiment of those principles.

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It was engaging and participatory: As well as “talking-head” speakers, of which I was one, each talk was interspersed with a section in which the audience got to do some work. HUGO has been designed around the HUGO family, a fictional family which is moving to Leeds and starting its digital inclusion journey. At the beginning of the day, delegates were asked to choose a badge with the cartoon representation of their favourite character on it, and they then re-arranged themselves into teams representing each character. This process culminated in the last break out session when each team wrote a blog post on behalf of their character, intended to be published, there and then. As Sue Jennings said, we were trusting the audience to have bought into the ethos of the character, and to take it in interesting, but not too incongruous directions, there and then, live to the world. Those of us directly involved in the project will have to live with the consequences of what they publish from hereon in.

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It all seemed to work. There was lots of positive backchat on Twitter, which was displayed to the room via a screen. And then, as people queued for their lunch, there was one last surprise which caught them all unaware. Take a look below.

No one was expecting that, and it rounded off a fun, exciting, informative event, which, I hope, people will remember for a long time.

All events should be like this. It’s possible.

Using technology to disrupt centralised decision-making

I am starting to write this hoping it will not turn into a rant. I’ve said this before, many times, and I suspect I will say it again, many more times.

Britain is one of the most centralised countries in the world. Decisions are made in London all the time about issues that affect us all. Many of these decisions are taken in small meetings which involve no one with a perspective from beyond the M25. I myself have been at meetings in the capital where I have been the only attendee not based in London but where it has been assumed that everyone present can speak with experience of the whole country.

It need not be like this any more. We have the tools to change this situation. The London-based decision makers who take the top-level decisions are already open to scrutiny. We can watch their discussions on the BBC Parliament Channel.

The internet allows us to take the Parliament Channel principle into all aspects of decision-making. It’s a straightforward task now to live-stream your meeting, involve remote attendees using tools like Skype and Google+ Hangouts, and engender online discussion using Twitter, Facebook or online fora. It’s not happening anywhere near enough. Why not?

One of the factors, that I’ve observed myself when in London, is those serendipitous meetings, where people just happen to bump into each other, exchange views and start working on a collaborative solution. This happens everywhere, but it happens a lot more in London, where there are more people, and where such collaborations can often get direct access to funders and decision-makers very quickly. How we spread those sorts of benefits is a trickier challenge, but, I am sure technology has a role to play.

So, let’s do it. Let’s use new technologies to break down centralism in decision-making.

Why should you live stream your event?

I firmly believe these days that the tools we have at our disposal mean there is no excuse for only talking to the people in the room when you hold an event. Conferences, seminars, workshops, are normally held to bring people together around a common agenda, to solve a problem, or to form new alliances. All these objectives can be achieved a lot more effectively if people outside the room are invited to join in.

Alternatively, you can video your event and release the coverage later. This is better than nothing, but it misses the immediacy of the discussion. Often events contain calls to action and deal with topical issues. This means they need to engage the wider world at the time. Releasing a video later will not address this need and risks the learning from your discussions falling into a vacuum. With live streaming you get the best of both worlds as the video can be archived for later viewing as well.

And, events tend to attract like-minded people to turn up and listen to speakers. This risks small cliques continually talking to each other. The problems of our time cannot be solved by the same people saying the same things to each other over and again. Live streaming opens the event up to other people with different perspectives who may have a contribution to make which you would never have thought of.

But, I hear many people say, live streaming is expensive and technically difficult. It isn’t the way I do it, and I can even train you and your staff  to do it for themselves. There’s a list of the main events I have live streamed here. Please contact me if you’d like to talk to me about doing something similar for you

Who does the internet think you are?

I am currently doing some work on the Newport Super Connected Cities Programme with my colleague James Saunby of Grey Sky Consulting. Last night we attended the official supper for the Newport Food Festival.

During the supper I got talking to a woman on our table who told me she was scared of the internet. She said she was a single parent of four children which meant she didn’t get out much and she craved adult, human discourse, and wanted to start preparing for a return to the workplace. I explained to her that the internet had the solution to both of those problems, but she remained scared, and social media was particularly scary to her.

So, I set a challenge that I could find something about her on the internet. After some time googling on my phone I had to admit defeat. I couldn’t find anything about her on the internet….. BUT, I did find a lot of material about someone with an identical name to hers who was described as a “Transexual Pole Dancer”.  My new friend seemed quite upset about this, almost seeming to blame me for associating her with this other person.

I explained to her that, in the modern age, people expect to research others online. If she was looking to get back to work she should expect potential employers to look her up on the internet. If they were to do this they might well come to the conclusion that she was a transexual pole dancer. If that makes her uncomfortable (I make no judgement as to whether it should), then she should populate the internet with accurate information about herself.

I don’t think I convinced her as she remained scared of the internet. But, hopefully I gave her some food for thought.

Digital life is real life

I get increasingly irritated by people who talk about the difference between digital lives and real lives. Tony Wang, the MD of Twitter UK even did it when responding to the furore about trolls and rape threats on Twitter. I think that attitude is part of the problem.

Digital tools are just that. They are aids to communication. Do we talk about our “telephone lives”? No we don’t. And that is because that particular technology (yes, the telephone is a technology too) has been around long enough to be taken for granted. The digital tools which we have not yet got used to using (and I include email which is in this category for some people) just haven’t bedded down yet, but they are incrementally taking over from other forms of communication. What we do with digital tools is a manifestation of what we do when we communicate face to face. The latter is what many call “real life”. But it is no less real than talking to someone on Facebook, where the people doing the communication are (in the main) real people. The tool is what brings them together.

So, why do I think people perpetuating the false divide between digital and real life are doing something damaging?

Well, I think it encourages the view that the digital arena is a different world where the rules of normal life don’t apply. And while it is an undeniable truth that digital tools give the trolls opportunities to hide behind anonymity, I believe that people who behave badly, consistently, online, are those who also behave badly when interacting face to face. But, there are those who make genuine mistakes, whether it be in tone, through insults, or posting inappropriate material, who have been lured into this kind of thing by the aura of difference. Often, they only make the mistake once if it is drawn to their attention or if the mistake has negative consequences for them.

The reality is that social media is just a set of communication channels. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, you shouldn’t use digital tools to say it. But seeing digital as different leads some to forget the simple rules of life, including common courtesy. And the mainstream media is very happy to fan the flames of this kind of negative publicity as part of their campaign to protect themselves from social media’s  power to divert its audience’s attention elsewhere.

And there are also those who see social media like a walled-garden community. They live their “digital lives” like a group of English ex-pats in Southern Spain, refusing to engage with the local culture and ordering teabags and marmite from home. These are the people who only see digital tools as being something you use when sat at a computer and wall these kinds of interactions off from the remainder of their lives. I suspect a lot of decision-makers are in this category, seeing the digital realm as being the world of spreadsheets and “reply-to-all” emails, rather than an enhancement to life which opens up a world of knowledge, entertainment and new contacts.

Smartphones and tablets are growing in popularity every day, and they are allowing people to be connected via digital tools wherever they are. This is not some kind of robotic world of connection to the digital brain, because the digital brain is all of us. The people we are connecting with are real people. Why do so many forget that?

Some of my passions

Some of the things I am passionate about:

If you connect with me on social media, I’m likely to talk about all of these things at some point, because work and social life tend to leak into each other. I hope you don’t have a problem with that.

What are you passionate about?