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David Wilcox

A fresh look at #digitalinclusion and older people from @pailondon. Tech changes - but do the challenges remain the same?

4 min read

The multi-sided challenge of how to address digital inclusion among older people in London will receive a welcome refresh tomorrow through a conference organised by Positive Ageing in London.

It will provide a timely input to the new Smart London plan, which I wrote about here.

For me it will be a chance to revisit explorations into Living Well in the Digital Age, carried out a few years ago with Nominet Trust, Age Action Alliance and the Centre for Ageing Better. These are summarised here.

Back in 2015 we pulled together, from various sources, a set of provocations and challenges.

  1. There isn’t an opt-out from technology - but you can choose how much you participate. (Technology has changed the world dramatically, and it will continue to change. What’s important is enabling people to choose how they engage).
  2. Government is concerned that many older people are not online - but there are limits to what government can do. (People will engage with what’s interesting and useful to them, and use devices that most suit their needs).
  3. Everyone needs Internet access … but beyond that, no one size fits all. (Cost is a barrier, and then personalisation is important).
  4. Computer courses and basic skills training don’t meet the needs of many older people. (Tablets are much easier to use than computers for most purposes, and smart phones and smart TVs may also meet many people’s needs).
  5. Simpler interfaces are needed for computers and mobile devices - not just more functions. (Older people should be involved in design).
  6. Relatively few organisations in the ageing field are actively engaged in the online world or using collaborative tools. (Using social technology should help enable greater greater cooperation).
  7. Digital social innovations in services are not scaling. (There’s too much focus on the tech, and not enough on what it does, together with a lot of re-invention).
  8. There is a raft of research, but little knowledge-sharing of that and day-to-day practice. (A lot of research is hidden and not transferred to practice. A culture of competitive tendering reduces people’s inclination to cooperate and use what’s already available).
  9. The energy for change lies with apps, connectors and storytellers. (To which we can add, evolution of trusted technologies such as TVs. Bring the storytellers together).
  10. The digital divide is no longer a useful metaphor. Reality is more complex.

The technologies may have advanced in three years, but my hunch is that many of the challenges remain the same.

I expect to return to these themes in the new Community of Practice that we are planning for the next stage of Networked City, and hope to find some people at the conference who may be interested.

Update: There's some good content from the day in tweets ... sorry I haven't extracted them. I did however capture the opening slides from PAIL chair Chris Walsh here

My final take:

Excellent conferencence on and at @pailondon. Wide range of latest tech covered including chatbots … discussion revealed need to still cover basics of awareness, affordable, pervasive connection, support and co-design of multi-channel services.