Going Digital Out and About
During the latter months of 2014, the Digital Inclusion team were invited to take part in a number of events that were not on the face of things obviously ‘digital’. In October we helped to deliver activities to mark Older People’s Day and joined dozens of other local support organisations at Grey’s Monument to commemorate World Mental Health Day. In November we played a key role in promoting Alcohol Awareness Week and at the end of that month we met Newcastle residents and carers at a lively Carers Right’s Day event.
All of these were fantastic and incredibly valuable occasions. We spoke to residents and to other organisations; we gave out dozens of ‘how to’ guides to ipads, androids, online shopping and staying safe online, as well as mouse mats, flyers for free digital skills training and information on local IT courses. We met a lady so frustrated with technology that she had almost given up and persuaded her to attend a local drop in group to improve her confidence. We met an aspiring entrepreneur – forced to give up work due to ill health but determined to start his own eBay business and eager to find out how.
During Alcohol Awareness Week we helped to publicise social activities for older people that provide alternatives to depending on alcohol for diversion. We ran two ‘Techy Tea Parties’ where we talked to people about how to get the best from (or just start using!) their tablet / ipad devices, and attended the ‘Main Event’ at the Grainger Market with music, dancing, information stalls and taster activities. At the latter we gave people information on healthy living and local events, but we also promoted the ways in which digital technology can help to alleviate loneliness and social isolation, whether by the safe use of social media, online discussion groups, Skype and FaceTime, or simply sharing personal interests such as games, crosswords and reading.
The fact that digital inclusion was considered by the organisers of these varied events to be relevant to their work; the interest and discussion that our stalls attracted, and the range of concerns and motivations of the people we encountered, is indicative of the permeation of ‘digital’ into multiple spheres of modern life. As Jeh Kazimi observed in a recent blog: ‘Reaching the hard to reach isn’t about hitting a numerical target. It’s not about how many people are connected…We don’t just need to get them online, we need to give them the motivation to stay there. And that means finding a version of the Internet that’s relevant to them’.