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.

National Plan for Digital Participation

Many of us now take the web and the opportunities it offers for granted.  To a greater or lesser extent we all derive some benefit from being online.  However, for 12.5 million people in the UK this is not the case.

The Digital Britain report identified the need for digital participation for these people and the important role it will play in their lives and society as a whole.  It made specific mention of a National Plan for Digital Participation (Digital Britain Report, Executive Summary, point 20 [p12]).

This week the government addressed that need by launching the National Plan for Digital Participation which offers a strategic framework for achieving the shared vision of helping…

… everyone who wants to be online to get online, do more online and benefit from the advantages of being online.
National Plan for Digital Participation, point 15 [p8])

Contributing to this plan and vision is the Digital Participation Consortium which includes government, industry, education and public/voluntary sector; and led by Ofcom.  Like most approaches the key is raising awareness of the potential benefits that are available so people can decide for themselves.  This can only be achieved through the collaboration of all the stakeholders involved.

The National Plan for Digital Participation is well worth a read if you feel you can contribute to this vision.  It is divided into the following sections:

  • Shared Vision
  • Identifying and addressing needs
  • Priority Groups
  • Driving Digital Participation
  • Achieving greater impact
  • Establishing the baselines
  • Timetable for further action

Many organisations are mentioned in the plan including EGSA [p27].

The Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, sums it up well:

Being online is crucial for participation in the 21st Century society – the Internet unlocks a wealth of information and services, giving people more choice in life and access to a range of education, health and financial opportunities.

NDI10 Digital Participation

The 5th National Digital Inclusion Conference is being held on the 10th and 11th March 2010 in the Vinopolis Conference Centre, London.  It’s titled ‘Digital Participation: Passing IT on’ and hopes to build momentum within the digital inclusion community by looking for practical ways to ensure that agenda is sustained.

There is a very impressive line-up of speakers and the event seems to capture the digital participation buzz.  For instance, there’s a dedicated social network site that you can join, ‘Digital Engagement‘, and the event is being streamed online free – so if that appeals sign-up here.

Last year’s event is still available for viewing free online.