I recently attended Digital Inclusion and Engagement: Digital by default and ND2013. Both conferences have offered interesting insights, and differing opinions, on the subject of Digital Inclusion.
Firstly, here are some of figures highlighting the extent of digitally exclusion in this Country:
- 1.2 million young people
- 1.5 million 25-50 year olds
- 2.5 million late middle age people
- 10.6 million have never used the internet
- 2.6 million have no access to broadband
So what’s being done about it?
DWP have been taking to Twitter, and turning their job centres into “Apple-like stores”, to give people more freedom digitally and give more up to date info on smartphones and tablets. This has proven successful to a degree, but the elderly and disabled are struggle to benefit from it as they don’t have the ability to get to job centres, or the skills to use social media.
Helen Goodman MP, shadow minister for media, believes that Government should be spending more money on Digital inclusion. Things that she suggests include; opening more ‘drop in centres’, getting large corporations to provide ICT kit, giving local authorities more resources and giving more power to Ofcom to stop overpriced broadband bundles.
These are steps in the right direction, but not a complete solution. As Helen Milner from UK Online Centres said, “Digital Inclusion is all about the people”. Not enough is being done to engage with the really hard to get to people. Digital Inclusion is more than just giving people access to online benefits, it’s about tackling problems that the excluded face on a day to day basis, such as social isolation.
A recent NHS report says that being lonely has the same impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Citizens Online and Bristol City Council are working with the community to give people the confidence as well as the skills, kit and the connectivity they need to make social connections digitally, as well as buy products or access government service online. For more information visit http://bristol-getittogether.btck.co.uk/