The recent Coronavirus crisis has taken us all by surprise. When you were making plans for 2020 I’ll bet they didn’t include being at home for 23hrs a day, queuing 2m apart to get into a supermarket, or home schooling your kids.
The virus has highlighted how important digital technology is in helping most of us cope. Imagine if there was only a landline, four tv channels and the physical books on your shelf to see you through! For people without video calls, kindles, online learning, gaming, music and tv streaming services these quarantine days may well feel even longer.
Local Authorities, NHS, charities and voluntary groups – you’ve all been amazing.
The speed at which you’ve acted to put emergency measures in place, to support the most vulnerable in our society, must be applauded. Lists of the most vulnerable to the virus (older and disabled people and those with health conditions) were distributed and everyone manned the phones to find out what people needed:
“How are you feeling? …
Do you have any friends or family that are keeping in touch with you? …
Do you need a food delivery? … Are there things you can’t eat?
Do you need someone to collect your prescriptions? …
Do you have a pet that you need help looking after? … ”
What’s missing from this conversation, though, is asking about people’s digital capability. It’s true that not being able to use the internet is unlikely to be anyone’s biggest problem. But technology is such a key enabler to improve so many areas of our lives such as: health and wellbeing, financial resilience, accessing information, and better employment opportunities. If people in these at-risk groups could register as a priority shopper and order online shopping or repeat prescriptions themselves, then the risks they face and the pressure on essential services would be reduced.
Here’s what we are calling for
We urge all organisations contacting and supporting people to ask about what they can do digitally:
- Do they have a device to connect to the internet?
- Do they have a decent connection via mobile or wifi?
- Have they got the skills and confidence to access the benefits of the internet?
And if not, here is the perfect opportunity to help them.
Here’s our suggestions for people wanting to help digitally excluded people:
- Join the Digital Champions Network (free during the pandemic). You can find champions in your local area who may be able to help, and develop your ability – or that of your staff/volunteers – to help people
- Signpost people to the AbilityNet helpline (0800 048 7642) or another local service offering remote digital help
- Register with DevicesDotNow to access donated devices, and/or contact your local UK online centre
We know that 72% of people that don’t use the internet say “nothing would motivate them” to go online. A positive outcome from this lockdown might be encouraging many of these people to start a new digital journey that could literally save their life.