Digital Inclusion on Wheels

This is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while, and I’ve had significant encouragement recently to take it forward, so, I’m about to launch a crowfunding campaign and sponsorship proposal for a Digital Inclusion Campervan.

The Story So Far

Our Digital Planet Internet Station in Bristol

If you’ve been paying attention (and, if not, why not?) you will have seen that I’ve been experimenting over recent years with different methods of taking digital inclusion to where people are, as I am a believer in seeking out people in their natural environments rather than expecting them to come to centres or courses. In 2012 and 2013 I managed Nominet Trust’s Our Digital Planet Project, which took a giant photographic exhibition on how people use the internet to various city centres around the country and backed it up with a shipping container full of volunteers and laptops.  I learned so much from this project, and it was such a pleasure to work with so many people who wouldn’t have dreamed of searching out a digital inclusion “centre”

But, the thing about Our Digital Planet was that it was expensive. It took a lot of resources to move all that stuff around the country, and there came a point at which the numbers of local partners able to find the cash to bring it to their area just ran out. So, I then set about seeing if the same principle could be delivered in a more mobile form.

I was fortunate to bump into Sue Jennings from Leeds Federated Housing Association at a digital inclusion get together, and this led to a collaboration which became the HUGO Project, featuring the HUGO Bus (in reality there are two buses), bringing a more mobile facility to the housing estates of Leeds, and available for hire to go elsewhere.

2014-09-11 17.15.06But even the HUGO Bus has a significant cost to moving around, and there are some places where that size of vehicle cannot go, so I am still frustrated that there is more that can be done.

And so, I now want to downscale things a bit more still. I’ve already gone from Our Digital Planet which took 2 flatbed trucks to move it around, to the HUGO Bus which is pretty mobile, but bulky. Now I want to go to the Digital Inclusion Campervan. It will be a go anywhere, reach anyone, digital inclusion facility with free wifi, tea and coffee, kit and support.

I need to raise the money to make this happen, so I am seeking sponsorship, and maybe will go down the crowdfunding route too. Scouring eBay, I reckon I can acquire a semi-decent campervan for about £7500, and I will probably need another £5k or so to kit it out and put a livery on it. To cope for contingencies, I’ll be looking to raise £15000 in total.

So, any sponsors out there want to pitch in? Sponsors will get the opportunity to have their branding on the bus, promote their products through its work, and, well, you tell me what you’d want in return.

I am excited about this, but I need to test the water first as to whether there are sponsors interested.

Please get in touch if you’d like to support this project.

 

 

 

Does your boss do tech?

Yet another discussion on Twitter about the large numbers of organisations, particularly in the public and voluntary sectors, who still resist the adoption of new technologies to make their clients’ lives better, and social media to transform the way they work.

This prompts me to ask this question – does your boss do tech?

In my experience, there are still far too many organisations where there are people on the frontline who want to adopt new methods and technologies, but their organisations, directed from the top, will not respond. And I think I know why this is, at least in some cases.

Most of us these days are immersed in the use of new technologies. We communicate all the time using Twitter and Facebook, or WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram. We use catchup TV services, and seek out “how to” videos on Youtube. But, if you are the Chief Executive of an organisation, you may be in the latter stages of your career, you may have thrived in working environments where there was no hint of technology, you may have had a PA to whom you dictate emails and reports, and who prints off emails and reports for you to read. And you probably work incredibly hard, put in long hours in the office, and then have a commute home. So, when you get home, all you want to do is slump in front of the TV, read a book, or maybe flick through those printed off reports and emails over a glass of wine. You are not playing computer games, you are not Skyping the relatives, you are not catching up with what your friends are up to on Facebook. In short you are insulated from new technologies, both in your working and home environments. And, given that retirement is visibly coming towards you over the horizon, you probably think that new tech is something for the next generation of leaders to deal with.

I am sorry if this stereotype, for stereotype it surely is, offends anyone. I know there are loads of CEOs who embrace new technologies, and who burn with ambition to integrate them in strategies to make their organisation work better. But, there are still too many CEOs who, in my opinion, stand in the way of progress.

So, ask yourself, “does my boss do tech?”. And, if they don’t then consider if you have opportunities to ensure that they do. Don’t always do everything for them; point out the environmental damage being done by all that paper they are carrying around. Then maybe, just maybe, they might even come to like using tech and become an advocate rather than a blocker.

DigiWards – The first digitally enabled hospital wards in the country(?)

One of the advantages of being a freelancer is you often get to work with some very special people. For a long time now I have wanted to work with Victoria Betton whose work I have admired for a number of years. Victoria inhabits that land between the big health services and the outside world, with an uncanny ability to communicate with both, and to make things happen by bringing insiders and outsiders together.

Yesterday we had the kickoff meeting for a project we are calling DigiWards. We’ve been fortunate enough to secure some funding via the Tinder Foundation from the NHS Widening Digital Participation Fund. Using this funding, we intend to “digitise” 4 wards at the Mount Hospital, in Leeds. The Mount provides in-patient services to older people with mental health problems and dementia.

As part of the project, free wifi is being installed into the wards (a cause close to my heart), and tablet devices will be made available for use by patients and carers.

My role in the project is to provide training and support to cohorts of Digital Champions from within the hospital’s clinical staff and volunteers. I will further be involved in supporting the digital champions to deliver a range of digital engagement activities with patients and carers including digital tea parties, digital drop-in sessions, digital carers’ sessions, and digital walks (real-time walks, live streamed to patients on the ward).

This is a great opportunity both to work with some lovely people, and to implement some of the ideas I have been working on for a while in a new context. We are pretty confident that these will be the first fully digitally-enabled older people’s inpatient wards in the country (let me know if you know otherwise). I can’t wait to get started, and I will, of course, post updates here.

There’s no point installing hospital wifi if patients can’t access it

I am still hopeful of progress in the campaign to get free wifi for patients in all NHS hospitals, particularly after what Tim Kelsey said at an event I was present at in March (see here).

But, you know what’s really frustrating? There are a number of cases where hospitals have installed wifi and yet the patients still can’t access it because none of the staff who have regular contact with patients know anything about it. While visiting my own local hospital, I asked at the information desk how to access the wifi and was told that no one there knew.

Can someone please spread the message that it is pointless installing wifi if patients can’t access it. This is doubly frustrating for disconnected patients.

Here’s an example of a hospital wifi login screen. I was unable to get online.

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