A Digital Participation Plan for NI

Last Tuesday Ofcom held a symposium to discuss Digital Participation in Northern Ireland. At the event Dominic Ridley from the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills presented the National Plan for Digital Participation (which includes a section on Northern Ireland).  He was followed by Dr Paul Moore, Chair of the Northern Ireland Digital Participation Hub, who introduced the hub’s Digital Participation Plan for NI which is aligned to the national plan.

A reccuring theme through both presentations was the 3 components of digital participation:

  • Digital Inclusion: encouraging and supporting people to get online
  • Digital Life: basic digital skills to increase employability and life chances
  • Digital Media Literacy: using, understanding and creating screen media

The NI Digital Participation Hub will develop an action plan for NI based on the following three phases (the skill level increasing through each phase):

  1. Information: basic skill but requiring high level of encouragement and support – activities can include searching, emailing and online commerce
  2. Participation: more skill and confidence required – activities can include social networking, blogging and online chat
  3. Creative: high level of technical skill – activities can include web design, image manipulation and programming

The plan identifies a number of possible strategic objectives:

  • Launch of a locally focused Social Marketing Programme (SMP) supported Hub members (Feb 2010-Nov 2010).
  • Undertaking of an in-depth qualitative analysis of present provision supported by the University of Ulster (Feb 2010-Jun 2010).
  • Targeting of inclusion strategies to older people (post-55) and rural communities to be facilitated by liaison Hub member organisations and local voluntary organisations (2010-2011).
  • Creation of online social network support groups for young people and adult learners (2010-2011).
  • Establishment of a ‘network apprenticeship’ scheme (2011-2012)
  • Embedding of accredited digital skills in school curriculum (2010-2012)
  • Identification of a sponsor for the supply of ‘affordable’ hardware (on-going).

The driver behind both plans is the Digital Britain report which defined digital participation as:

Increasing the reach, breath and depth of digital technology use across all sections of the society, to maximise digital participation and the economic and social benefits it can bring.

Basically, digital participation is about bringing everyone along in the digital journey. Those who, for whatever reason, do not embrace this journey may find themselves slowly excluded from services and benefits which the digital literate population take for granted.  There are enough significant economic and social benefits for the population and government to ensure that a u-turn in this journey is unlikely.

I would encourage you to read the NI plan and to support digital participation.

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