I can’t help myself. When I read suggestions like these have to drag out the soap box.
I tweeted but there are times when a tweet isn’t enough.
Only a blog post will do.
The Policy Exchange Think Tank says Internet access and training would cut pensioner loneliness and the BBC have picked this up http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27577143. With no link to the original report (nor can I find it on the PE website) my knowledge is limited to this piece which reinforces skewed ideas of how digital divides are constructed. The BBC should know better. Here is an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of their complexity, in particular for older people, who often have specific requirements with regard to access.
Digital exclusion is now generally understood as being about usage as well as access. This is a step in the right direction. What gets missed is the linkage between users of assistive technologies – who need alternatives to mouse and screen based hardware and software – and the design and delivery of web content which fails to be accessible enough for devices like screen readers.
Nothing in this piece acknowledges research around the multiple reasons older people are at risk of digital exclusion in the first place. It’s deterministic to suggest technology can cure what is fundamentally a social problem. For example ‘Eddie Copeland, author of the report, said learning basic computer skills would stop pensioners becoming vulnerable to loneliness.’ What’s being suggested? Here’s a laptop, you’ll fine now – dear. After all, who needs a warm living person when a keyboard will do?
The internet and world wide web have been amazing inventions but ultimately are mirrors of the wider society in which they’re created, managed and used. Assuming technology is the answer to social isolation is not the answer. We need less Digital First policies, in particular with regard to the provision of information, welfare and health services. What’s needed is investment in people not machines.
Recent research into digital divides and exclusions
Across the Divide – Full Report from the Carnegie Trust http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/2013/across-the-divide—full-report
Cultures of the Internet from Oxford Institute
Age UK Digital Inclusion Evidence Review