Digital by Default News spoke to Matthew Adam, Managing Director at Silver Training, about his thoughts on digital inclusion and the government’s recently launched charter which aims to reduce the number of people who are offline by 25% by 2016.
1. What are the main challenges to digital inclusion that the Charter is dealing with?
It always comes down to three strands: training, equipment and access.
In terms of equipment, laptops are increasingly good value these days and tablets are taking the world by storm: you can now get them for as little as £99 (Tesco’s Hudl). Access normally refers to having an internet connection at home. Many people do of course nowadays but the speed is sometimes dubious (hence the super-fast broadband rollout in the countryside at the moment which is having some effect) and it is believed that 11 million people still remain offline in the UK, many of whom are on low incomes.
Training, equipment and access of course become much more problematic when you are on a low income (for instance paying the monthly landline cost with BT or buying even a recycled computer), so funding is key for this demographic – such as the work we are doing with housing associations across the UK currently.
Silver Training provides a national 1:1 tuition service in the home, for people that don’t want to go to a local centre or group course, but there are other great organisations such as the Tinder Foundation who run a network of centres in the UK where people can go to locally.
2. How does the Digital Inclusion Charter aim to tackle these problems?
It seems to me as if the Charter is endeavouring to bring together all the key organisations in the digital inclusion space to make a change, much like Go On UK was formed to do (and still continues to do). The digital inclusion space has grown massively in the past few years so there are many different providers offering different services.
The idea of the Charter is to prevent the sector from being too sporadic – and putting all the available services in one place. It also allows for partnership working which is increasingly important in this area, to ensure we make real change – so the Tinder Foundation for instance are joining forces with Asda to run digital workshops. We have partnered with Simplify Digital to offer cheap broadband services and continue to work with many organisations such as Tinder to expand what we are all doing.
3. Is there anything the charter has missed out on, in your opinion?
My only concern with centralised charters such as these, as with a lot of the governmental message over the last few years, is that they can often become just a generalised message, whereas what’s needed on the ground is real long-term work and solutions. A one hour taster for an older person to use a tablet is great, but will that person still have the skills 6 months later? If not – how can they? I think these are the pertinent questions long after a charter has been announced.
Silver Training provides computer tuition in the home as well as via group courses, through its network of professional tutors. They can be contacted on 0800 862 0666.