Making Digital Inclusion Mainstream

Digital is vital, it is central, it is at the heart of so much the majority of us do.

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But, as we know, that is not true for a significant, if dwindling, numbers of people. I believe it’s important that we help as many of these people as possible to realise the benefits from digital as the rest of us do. But I continue to be frustrated at the way many go about this.

Digital is vital, central and fun. Why then separate it off from the rest of life?

To an extent I am reiterating here, but maybe the message is not getting through.  This is what I believe we need to do to make Digital Inclusion mainstream:

  • stop separating it off from other activities. If you’re an agency that believes digitally including the people you work with is important, then demonstrate that. Don’t make it the responsibility of one person or one division. Your organisation needs to be imbued with digital, your staff need to be digitally skilled and enthusiastic about it, and they need to want to pass both the enthusiasm and the skills on. Have a look at Halton Housing’s Digital First programme.
  • most of us use digital for fun activities. People’s introduction should be fun, or of personal value, or, preferably both. Stop sitting people in front of computers (give them tablets instead) and making them fill forms in, or complete courses. Show them where the fun is, and where they can find information on their personal interests.
  • go to where people are, don’t expect them to come to you. Stop putting all your digital inclusion resources in rooms that people have no reason to visit; go to where they are and want to be. Have a look at Leeds Federated Housing Association’s HUGO project.
  • Digital Inclusion and community development should be aligned. Digital is so important to well-being and quality of life that I fail to understand how any community development strategy can be pursued which doesn’t put it at the centre. And the techniques of community development are vital to coaxing people to take their first steps in the digital world. Look at the work of Communities 2.0 in Wales.
  • Digital Inclusion is not a one-off hit. People need continuing support. And this support is best received if it comes from people like them. We need many more volunteer digital mentors on the model of the Making IT Personal project.

Digital inclusion needs to be fun, integrated, and sustained. And it need not cost a fortune.

Drone bins – an idea ahead of its time?

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I had a conversation on Saturday at the #notwestminster event about Drone bins. Actually, the discussion started when someone asked the question – who will need councils when most services can be automated? This led to talk about which services might be automated, and then whether drones might eventually collect bins. I then chipped in to the discussion suggesting that, instead of drones collecting the bins, eventually technology could be incorporated into each bin to make it a drone. Thus, when the contents of a bin reach a certain weight it could fly itself off to the tip, empty itself and return to its home location.

There was much hilarity, and not a little disbelief when I shared this idea on social media. There was one comment about flocks of drone bins wheeling through the sky against the backdrop of a sunset. Sorry, I can’t remember who made this comment, but it was inspired.

This idea may seem far-fetched. But, think back thirty years and consider how many of the developments which we now, more or less, take for granted would have seemed fanciful back then. In 1985 no one, outside a few government scientists, was using the internet. How could we have predicted how much of our lives would be transformed by online services, and how connected we would all be? The thing about future technological developments is that, if they don’t seem magical or ridiculous, then they probably won’t be worth having. A time traveller from 1985 might have only one explanation for some of the technology we use now; and that is that we have finally discovered real magic.

So the idea of drone bins is a good laugh isn’t it? But, then, so was self-driving cars a few years ago, and those are now on the roads in California, and will shortly be coming to the UK.

 

Local Democracy for Everyone #notwestminster

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Yesterday I walked from my house for 10 minutes and joined a national event. And an excellent event it was too. It was Local Democracy for Everyone – We’re Not in Westminster Anymore. I was pretty staggered when I walked into the Huddersfield Media Centre to find the place packed and buzzing with around 70 people, all desperate to discuss how we can adapt our democratic processes for the needs of the 21st Century. I’m not sure why I was surprised. I live in Huddersfield, I am biased about it, I think it’s a great place. I also think it has fabulous transport links. Using the Transpennine rail line, I can be in either Leeds or Manchester in around half an hour, and there are direct trains to Liverpool and Newcastle. But, the fact that the town does not have direct rail links with the likes of London, and Birmingham had made me believe that people wouldn’t travel here for national events.

#notwestminster proved me wrong. It helped that it was a really good event, with an exciting agenda put together by the people who comprise the Local Democracy Bytes section of LocalGovDigital. There was some great discussions and some very useful meetings of minds. You can catch up with most of what happened via the Storify of tweets here.

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And it was really good to catch up with the likes of Ken Eastwood, Tim Davies, Councillors Tim Cheetham, Simon Cooke, and David Harrington, all of whom I hadn’t seen for far too long, and Dave McKenna (and others). And it was doubly nice that they all came to the town where I live, rather than me having to travel long distances to meet up with them. The previous time I saw Tim was at a seminar in London at which he was talking about the reasons why he had abandoned Twitter. The #notwestminster event must have been pretty powerful, however, as it got him tweeting again. Tim has always been one of the wittiest and sharpest contributors to my Twitter stream, so I really hope that this is a permanent return.

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I’ll let others blog about the detail of what went on at the event. I’m just writing here to capture some of my impressions of a really good day. I am encouraged that so many people want to contribute to making democratic processes fit for the modern day.That really makes me feel good.

Cricket and Social Media – Finding the Stories

2015-02-03 20.10.36This week was the second Workshop in the Bradford element of the Cricket and Social Media project I am undertaking with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

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Towards the end of the workshop, I asked attendees to suggest their favourite cricketing stories. One person said, “well we did have a naked cricket match at our club once”. That was unexpected, and caused a fair degree of hilarity in the group.

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I’d like to thank Colin Beveridge for tracking down the Daily Telegraph report of the match for me. Just goes to show, you can never predict what kinds of stories you are going to uncover.

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