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