User-friendly BlackBerry apps are a key to Digital Engagement

I’ve been having a play with the new official Twitter app for BlackBerry. It’s quite nice, in fact, I’ll go as far as to say it’s one of the best applications I have used on a BlackBerry. It seems to me that it is the closest any BlackBerry app has got to an iPhone-like user experience. Following the iPad launch, we now know that Apple is avowedly aiming to engage non-computer users, which means also, that, looking retrospectively, the iPhone must be seeking to engage with non-smartphone users.

My reasons for exploring this issue are related to digital inclusion, digital engagement, and e-services. One of the problems we still face is the large numbers of key decision-makers, including people like politicians and senior public sector managers, who still fail to grasp the transformative power of ICT, because it has never really impacted on their personal lives, and they have others to perform key ICT-related tasks for them in their working lives. BUT, a large proportion of these people have BlackBerries. In many cases they have graduated from pagers to BlackBerries and have managed to grasp the BlackBerry email programme to keep them in touch with their offices. These people are, in the main, probably never going to become iPhone users, because they don’t know why they would need one, and their office is never going to buy them one. They also have little interest in using their BlackBerries for purposes other than email, partly because they don’t know what else it can do, but also, partly because most BlackBerry applications except email are still so clunky and unfriendly to the user, particularly in comparison to iPhone apps.

So, I would argue that more user-friendly BlackBerry applications is an objective vital to the future of digital inclusion and engagement. Only when we can open the eyes of BlackBerry-using decision-makers to the power of digital devices will we be able to make the step changes in digital engagement the country needs. And, although those of us who are iPhone users can continue to wax lyrical over what a wonderful device it is, the people we need to convince are not going to migrate.

Thus, I hope the quite lovely official Twitter app for BlackBerry is the first step towards BlackBerry apps that are really a pleasure to use. Then we might stand a chance of converting some of the luddites.

On BBC Radio Leeds – 8th April 2010

Monica Tailor and I were on the BBC Radio Leeds Breakfast Show on 8th April 2010. We went on primarily to promote the regular Leeds Social Media Surgeries, but the discussion very quickly turned to the possible uses of Social Media in the UK General Election.

When we got there, I was surprised to find that Martin Kelner, one of my all-time broadcasting heroes, was standing in for the regular male host, so that made my day!