Buckinghamshire libraries joined thousands of other community groups to promote Get Online Week, this week. The initiative is the largest digital inclusion campaign in the country.
In common with the Tinder Foundation, the earlier work of Go ON UK and other campaigners, it recognises that people who can’t or won’t go online are from lots of different backgrounds and face many different barriers. There isn’t, therefore, one solution. Partnership working is crucial.
It was important to me that our digital team supported colleagues in the libraries to make the week a success. Our posts are publicly funded, and we’re in a privileged position of being confident and highly proficient at using technology in our daily lives. So Get Online Week was an important opportunity for us to make a different kind of contribution to our community.
But equally important, was what it taught us. I have vivid memories of the time I spent with an older woman – a previously proficient typist – going online for the first time. In particular, the challenges presented by her very mild arthritis and varifocals in being able to select a radio button and choose accurately from a dropdown list.
This week our team Slack channel has been full of people sharing their experiences:
- “interesting to see how difficult some find it to use a mouse and keyboard and what I think is second nature”
- “exciting to know that I’ve helped open up the web to people for the first time”
- “I converted one person from begrudgingly creating an email address to going to buy a tablet to connect with the world”
So we went to give, but got more back.
The library service had done an excellent job in recruiting people who were clearly nervous, but ready to learn. People had a variety of reasons for attending: a sense that they needed an email address, that the internet was no longer optional, or pressure from a family member. Many were nervous about spam, fraud and inappropriate content – but understood the potential benefits, too.
You don’t have to wait for Get Online Week 2017. We can all help friends, family members and even colleagues to give greater confidence and awareness in using computers and accessing the internet. It’s easy, important – and invaluable learning too!