A regular update on activities within our responsible innovation theme.
What we’ve been doing:
We’ve been leaning in to conversations about digital inclusion locally, nationally and internationally. Across Europe city leaders are working to get digital inclusion prominently on the European political agenda. National conversations have centred around the persistence of the digital divide which has been further highlighted under COVID-19 lockdown. Locally we’ve been discussing the benefits of distributed versus coordinated action on digital exclusion.
Where we’ve been and what we’ve seen:
The Bristol Innovation Group (a newly formed network connecting action across industries, sharing innovation best practice, and finding valuable ways to collaborate) hosted a discussion on tackling digital exclusion, led by DigiLocal. There is a flurry of local action currently underway to get devices and connectivity to people who are currently without internet access across the city. It is brilliant to see practical action being taken to address digital access as the need is immense. Yet, I was left wondering whether it is possible to maintain the positive energy and goodwill whilst also coordinating the multiple, often disparate, efforts across the city. And whether coordination and collaboration is necessary to ensure that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts?
What we’ve read:
The Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2020 launched at the end of May. The index is updated annually, and offers the largest measure of digital capability in the UK. This years report includes early effects of Covid-19 in the context of digital capability. One of the key findings is that “Motivation remains a key barrier: 48% of those digitally excluded say ‘nothing’ could motivate them to get online“. We wonder to what extent COVID-19 will have shifted this, with many services and people rapidly adopting digital tools, and what the impact of this swift uptake will be. Perhaps we’ll have to wait for the 2021 Index to find out.
Digital Leaders have summarised this rapid digitisation as being “two steps forward and one step back” for digital inclusion. They suggest there may be an “unintended consequence of further marginalising those who already suffer from digital exclusion”, where digital exclusion is a single aspect of social exclusion, and one which is often layered alongside multiple factors of social exclusion.
What we want to share:
Could you help Not Equal by joining their Virtual Community Panel? The panel will help select research projects that tackle social justice issues in the age of digital technology, in response to a recent call for collaborations. Apply here by Tuesday 16 June. The panel will meet for three short virtual discussions in July. Not Equal are looking to select people from a range of backgrounds, with a variety of experiences including voluntary/community group leaders and staff, as well as service users.
Do you have an unused smartphone or tablet gathering dust? Why not donate it to a devices amnesty or reuse scheme to help someone who is living without access to the internet? Last month we mentioned #GiveNTech – a devices amnesty in Bristol, which joins the ranks of great initiatives taking practical steps to improve digital access. As well as local schemes, if you’re reading this from beyond Bristol, Vodafone UK and children’s charity Barnardo’s, have launched the Great British Tech Appeal. The appeal asks people to donate pre-loved smartphones and tablets for redistribution to disadvantaged children, families and the charity workers who support them. Find out more and donate.