The Tech Partnership

Mature woman laptop

I’m going to tell you a bit about our new initiative we’re working on at the Tech Partnership, Get Digital — and my nan (stick with me). It’s all about our digital lives and the amazing opportunities technology offers to live them well.

Enhancing lives with basic digital skills and Get Digital

19.05.2017

Enhancing lives with basic digital skills and Get Digital

19.05.2017

In this personal blog, Matt Oliver, from the Tech Partnership, brings to life the reality of digital inclusion and how it can enhance our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

The Tech Partnership has taken on responsibility for basic digital skills from Doteveryone, and looks forward to championing the importance of basic digital skills for all –citizens, small businesses and charities alike. The UK is facing a major digital skills deficit at all levels, and this can only be resolved by ensuring all our citizens have at least a basic level of digital capability. Not only are these skills essential today for employment, they are increasingly essential in our social, financial and civic lives too.

You can follow @Get_Digital on Twitter for updates and visit the Tech Partnership’s website for more information about basic digital skills.

Get digital... like my nan

I’m going to tell you a bit about our new initiative we’re working on at the Tech Partnership, Get Digital — and my nan (stick with me). It’s all about our digital lives and the amazing opportunities technology offers to live them well.

Just off the top of my head, my favourite tech ‘innovation’ has to be Spotify — my own endless, transferrable, sharable music library that also allows me to steal my cooler friends’ playlists. I turn on my phone, click the app’s green icon and press play.

There are so many ways that digital technology has enriched our lives but, still, huge numbers of people are excluded from many parts of modern life because they don’t have the necessary digital skills. In the UK, it’s 11.5 million. If you’re reading this blog you’re probably ok — maybe you found it on Twitter, were emailed it by a colleague, etc. and are reading it on your computer or smartphone. Accessing information this way is second nature to most these days, but clearly not for all.

So let me tell you a bit about one of them, my nan. She’s 90 years old, loves the Queen, watches all the soaps — yes, she’ll try and tell me every scummy thing Max Branning has done over the last month (“Oh, you didn’t see it, well Max did the dirty with…just so wicked…”), gossips about the neighbours across the street and thoroughly dislikes my five day old stubble (“You scruff!”, she says to me). I’m sure you can say similar things about your nan or elderly mum.

My nan, Barbara, occasionally comes out with stories that surprise me and my brothers and sister: “…one time I went dancing at Hammersmith Palais during the Blitz and had to cycle all the way back to Feltham during an air raid. Was a bit dangerous but we’d be so bored stuck at home otherwise.” When she was small, Barbara and her many siblings followed her father, a British army officer, around the world. On mornings in Egypt she’d shake scorpions out of her boots and in Changi Bay, Singapore, soldiers from her father’s regiment would give her swimming lessons.

She started work in a factory age 14 — manufacturing something to do with the war effort, was a school dinner lady for most of her life, retired about 30 years ago, and will be survived by only my dad and his children.

Out of all the people I know, my nan has lived the simplest life. She doesn’t drive, prefers plain food, hasn’t been out of England since the war and never bothered herself with computers, leaving my dad to organise her bills and administrative affairs. Before digital TV, Teletext was the only complex form of IT she’d ever used.

That all changed when my parents announced their plans to move to Singapore last October. Until then, her only child, my dad, had scarcely lived more than 30 minutes’ drive away from her his entire life. She loves a good old chat with him, but soon he would be nearly 7,000 miles away. So we gave her my mum’s old iPad and taught her how to use Skype — the actual functional skills of using the touch screen to make and receive calls (and to not put her thumb on the camera!). “You’re a very good teacher”, she informed me. This doesn’t only mean Nan has an easy way to talk to my dad, they talk more than they ever did when he lived round the corner. Nan also enjoys the pictures he sends of places in Singapore that she knew as a child.

There’s lots of people out there like my nan: need a digital solution and a helping hand to get the right skills perform the task. She might not yet have all the digital skills most take for granted, but it’s definitely a good start.
It’s going to be a big task to get that worrying number of ‘digitally excluded’ people down to zero. One of our first tasks is therefore to understand where these people are and what services they need to get up to scratch. Tech Partnership will be publishing new data in a couple of months that indicates geographical frequency of digital skills. Using that we’ll update the Digital Exclusion Heatmap which will identify to county councils and service providers where services need to be targeted.

But in the meantime, let’s share our stories - the challenges and opportunities of getting digital. You can follow @Get_Digital on Twitter for updates and visit Tech Partnership’s website for more information about basic digital skills.