Can Digital Technology Meet The Challenges Of Social Inclusion?

New technology, particularly email and the worldwide web, has many benefits to offer almost everyone. But it fails to reach many who would find it useful, principally because of its complexities and unfamiliar style. Perhaps we need to think about a ‘Library of the Web’ as a way of offering a level of guarantee of acceptability in terms of content, and to adopt a Plain English Campaign-style approach to e-tech presentation.
There is plenty of evidence that the worldwide web has helped people to make contact across huge divides; but the debate continues (see Guardian letters today) about whether on overall balance it contributes, or does not contribute, to social inclusion.
Essentially, the most serious techno-divide seems not to be between people of different ages or of, e.g., different genders, but between those who are willing and able to get to grips with new technology and those who are not.
Email can be a great boon for people who are housebound, as well as home-workers and of course those in employment. Websites can provide the most amazing information. In every case however there has to be a facility in both the physical and the attitudinal senses.
We can make simple e-tech equipment for young children; why not also for people (some of them older, some with physical difficulties, or whatever) who have difficulties or concerns about using it?
We can ensure that what children read is acceptable and generally valid information. Can this not be done on some level, in terms of public information for everyone, about how to check what you are reading has some substance? Libraries on the whole manage to do this for the books they stock. What about a ‘Library on the Web’ of some sort, maybe at varying levels of provision?
Employment opportunities and training are quite rightly becoming much more accessible on line; so should opportunities for people to seek help with their health concerns, citizenship concerns and much else. These things do exist, but by no means as accessibly as many of us would like.
There is a widespread need to engage people who DON’T understand new technology in its production, when this is for general use, and especially when it’s intended as a public service. (We all pay for public service information; and there is anyway an irrefutable case for making sure we can all, or as many as will benefit from it, have genuine access to it.)
Much of e-tech is produced by people who find it difficult to see how perplexed many of the rest of us are by their language and modes of communication. The real challenge which faces them is to use their skills, at least for pubic domain e-content, to achieve the same level of presentational simplicity as that required, say, to operate domestic appliances or read a popular newspaper.
Social inclusion and entitlement continue to be pressing issues as the internet grows apace. Where is the equivalent of the Plain English Campaign, when it comes to the new technology?

Posted on October 15, 2005, in Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Politics, Policies And Process. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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