Abstracts: November 17th, 2008

This report from Communities and Local Government summarises insights and experiences from community and third sector organisations involved in initiatives aimed at opening up digital technologies to excluded communities.

Lack of awareness, not knowing who to ask for help and advice, access, costs, misperceptions; all conspire to exclude large sections of society from the world of the internet, digital media and other digital technologies.

The problem is compounded by factors such as no broadband access to homes, variability in provision of web-services at libraries and other public access points and design inequalities. Some keyboards appear to have been designed for the nimble fingers of a 16 year old.

The report calls for the appointment of a “Commissioner for Digital Equality” to stimulate demand influence policy, public service delivery, private sector provision, and third sector support. A practical first step would be a national promotional campaign to inspire people and organisations. In particular, excluded people need a clear picture of potential benefits so that they are motivated to invest time and effort in the exploration and mastery of digital technologies.

The report list examples of ways in which digital technology helps different groups in society, particularly the elderly. It highlights the benefits of sensors in the home which identify problems such as a sink overflow, smoke or abnormal heat in the kitchen.

The report is available from DCLG. http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/1000419.pdf