Digital Inclusion


I’ve been working hard to promote my ideas around digital inclusion for a number of years. Briefly summed up, my philosophy is:

  • Go to where people are, don’t wait for them to come to you;
  • Reasons for using the internet are different. Some can be harder to find than others;
  • No one voluntarily begins using the internet because they want to access Government services;
  • Most people use the internet for fun. The newcomer’s introduction should also be fun;
  • Show people what others do with the internet. They might want to join in;
  • Demonstrate that internet use is a part of “normal”, everyday life.

I have managed Our Digital Planet, a touring exhibition, which visited city centres, engaged people through images of internet use and then coaxed them to get online. During this project I met loads of people who, while initially resistant, proved amenable to arguments in favour of getting online, when their touchpoint was approached. One of the loveliest people I met on this project was Ron, whose story is presented below

I helped Leeds Federated Housing Association secure funds for the HUGO project, a multi-faceted digital inclusion initiative, encompassing a digital inclusion Hub at the Association’s headquarters, a mobile HUGO bus (see below), and which has spawned other ideas such as a Digital Laundry, and Digital Tea Parties. This project is being viewed as a model by many other social housing providers and partners, and I spoke about it at a cross government digital inclusion seminar at the Department for Communities and Local Government in April 2014.


Part of my philosophy is that we need to harness the enthusiasm of the already digitally engaged in the community to bring their fearful peers on board with them. The HUGO project is doing this by reaching out to them through social media. When the HUGO bus hit the road, it used the on-board kit to blanket the local area with free wifi. This is designed to bring those who have devices they want to connect out to the bus to use the wifi and find out what it is doing.

A large part of the work I have done on Rural Broadband has been based on these principles, as many people in rural areas don’t know what they are missing out on.

In July 2014 I was named by The Guardian as one of the UK’s top 5 Digital Inclusion tweeters.

2 thoughts on “Digital Inclusion

  1. “No one voluntarily begins using the internet because they want to access Government services”

    True! And as someone who tried to fill in a tax return online, the experience made me never want to try again. Actually though, I’ve often wondered why someone in Government doesn’t look at the original French Minitel success story and try and set up a nationwide system that would enable the majority of the population to (a) get connected to the Internet, and (b) make Government services easy to get access and use. It was free to use, and every household was lent a terminal which would enable them to access France Telecom’s Yellow Pages for free but also to access other, varied services for a small fee.

    We’ve recently seen that even a Raspberry Pi Zero can perform an incredible amount of work and costs £5, so why not invest in building a device with a similar spec that can access the Internet as a “black box” and plug the other end into a TV? As for connecting the ‘Net itself, why not do a deal with BT to connect to the nearest BTWiFi-with-FON access point – they seem to be everywhere.

    There are lots of opportunities, but it just needs someone in Government to realise this and do something!

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