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.

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.

“Why have I resisted so long?”

He came into the Internet Station of Our Digital Planet in Wigan and without introducing himself said “I’ve reluctantly come to the decision that I can’t hide from the internet any longer. My family are constantly complaining that I don’t participate in things they organise online”.

He asked to be shown how to send an email. Afterwards he said “I feel guilty now I know how easy it is. Why have I resisted so long? My family must think I am so rude”.

The Importance of Digital Storytelling

Last week I got the heart warming news that the LS14 Trust had secured 3 years funding for their Digital Lounge. When I met with them in March, they were seriously fearing closure as the funding they had was running out.

So, I made a video in which the staff members told some stories about how important their work is, and it generated quite a lot of interest.

Digital storytelling is important, and it works. Here’s the video I made with Nic and Jo:

If it makes me happy…

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I’ve just had a lovely chat with a gentleman (who told me he was 85) who came into the Our Digital Planet Internet Station to tell me that new technologies and the internet are all a con.

He proudly stated “I am firmly a man of the 1950s, and that’s how I want to live my life”. He believes that all modern gadgets are part of a process of convincing people to buy things they don’t need. “I’ve seen them walking about with these biscuits” he said (meaning tablets)… “what’s all that about?”. He said he is content with his view that he has had his life and the modern world has nothing to offer him. I told him that made me sad, but he said he has been happy, and sadness has no part in his life. He doesn’t get lonely and is content with his own company.

And then he pulled out his mobile phone, which is pre-programmed with the work and home numbers of his daughter and that of a taxi company. “This is the only new technology I have, and it does those 3 things for me,” he said.

We had to agree to differ, and this was one that got away. But, if he is happy, who am I to ask him to change?

 

There be dragons

After Day 2 of Our Digital Planet in Wigan, I’m left reflecting on what a scary place the internet is for some people. I listened to a long tale from an older gentleman about the different error messages, warnings, and pop ups which had assailed him during his computer use, and which had eventually convinced him to give the whole thing up. Eventually, I could only advise him to bring his laptop into the Internet Station so I could have a look at it, as, without seeing it, it was impossible for me to judge which of these messages was potentially harmful, and which could easily be dismissed. Those of us who use computers and the internet all the time find it relatively easy to distinguish what we need to worry about and what we don’t, but, for those who are new and irregular visitors, it can seem an impenetrable maze of constant warnings.

 

Back in the Saddle

I’m writing this on my way to day 2 of Our Digital Planet’s visit to Wigan. Yesterday was almost 6 months to the day from when I locked up the Internet Station and walked away from it in Glasgow, and it was great to be back in there again.

But, of course, what really made it worthwhile was being able to help people do things which will improve their lives. That is a wonderful feeling.

And, to prove a point, our very first visitor was Harriet, who is 81 and was full of tales of the African refugee children she adopted in the 1950s who went on to be successful in the music industry and counted The Beatles and Rolling Stones among their friends. Harriet’s grandson has a degree in Computer Science, but she doesn’t like to bother him with her “trivial” issues, so she will be coming back another day with her laptop and scanner in a trolley.

I believe everyone has a touching point in their lives which will make internet use compelling to them. I will be looking for those touch points in Wigan until Wednesday, and then we move on to Leigh.

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Introducing the WOW Bus

OK, this is a working title for a project I am working on, and I need your help.

Our Digital Planet - Bristol

If you follow my work, you’ll be familiar with Our Digital Planet, the touring exhibition, which visits, city centres, engages people through images of internet use, and then coaxes them to get online. Now, I’m working on a project (working title, the WOW Bus) which will do something similar, but fully mobile; able to go anywhere.

The project is at funding application stage. I am working in partnership with a largeish organisation which is putting a chunk of its own resources in and applying, with me, for funding to make the project happen. The plan is for the organisation to use the bus with its own clients, and for myself and others to use it at other times.

I am really excited about this. This needs to be done quickly, and I need to explore a range of options. Which is why I am asking for your support.

I believe in being ambitious. Maybe we’ll have to scale things down, but I’d like this to be a combination of Eastella’s Brilliant Bus, the John Lennon Bus, Peabody Trust’s Digivan, and New York City Housing Authority’s Digital Vans. We want it to create a buzz when it arrives in an area. It will flood the surrounding environment with free wifi and inspire people to explore the digital world. It will be the WOW Bus, because it will be a mobile Window on the World, but also, because people will say “wow!” when they see it.

We are going to explore all options, including buying and equipping a new vehicle. But, I know there are all sorts of vehicles out there which could, with a little tweaking and adaptation, become the WOW Bus at much lower cost. If you have such a vehicle, or know of one, please get in touch. If you can help in any way, drop me a line at john.popham@johnpopham.com or tweet me at @johnpopham.

Please help to make the WOW Bus a reality.

New York City Housing Authority Digital Van from http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycha/html/community/education_digital_vans.shtml

Our Digital Planet is back on the road

I am very pleased to report that Our Digital Planet will be back on the road shortly. Thanks to the support of Nominet Trust and Wigan Council, we will be in Wigan Town Centre from 24th to 29th May, and then in Leigh Town Centre from 30th May to 2nd June.

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When I locked up the Internet Station for the last time in Glasgow last November, a profound sense of loss suddenly hit me. This was a bit of a surprise, but, when I analysed it, I realised it was the constant interaction with people that I was missing; the immersion in their daily lives; the feeling that I was being trusted to listen to their stories, and, above all, the deep feeling of satisfaction at being able to do something which I believed would improve their lives.

This is what gave me a determination and a drive to make sure that we could do more of this. So, almost exactly six months after Our Digital Planet left Glasgow, it will be back on the streets again in Wigan and Leigh. I am so looking forward to getting some of those feelings again and being let in to people’s lives. And I hope we can uncover some more gems, like the gentleman who found a video online of his wife as a babe-in-arms being presented to the young Princess Elizabeth in a Maltese maternity hospital; like the lady who was able to connect with her children in the USA; and, of course like Ron. I make no excuse for re-posting the video of Ron below.

And I want as many people as possible to get involved. If you are within striking distance of Wigan, please come down and visit. If you are able to volunteer some time to help people get online, then that would be fabulous. During the week I hope to be doing some live linkups and letting the outside world in on what we are doing, probably using Google+ Hangout, so, please get involved in that. Oh, and we still desperately need 5 laptops / tablets, if you can help with that.

I am very hopeful that Wigan will be the first stop on a national tour for 2013. For that to happen, we need partners to come forward with funding as well as locations.

UPDATE

Here’s James Winterbottom of Wigan Council talking about Our Digital Planet coming to Wigan and Leigh

Here’s Ron, people like him make all this worthwhile