Taking the internet to places others can’t reach
John Popham is Digital Storyteller. No 2 on 2014 list of Housing Digital PowerPlayers & No. 2 on Guardian list of top Digital Inclusion Tweeters. John has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to educate and bring digital inclusion to places other project cannot reach. John tells Salus Digital about the DigiCamper project.
“If you asked me to name the one event, outside of my personal life, that had changed my life more than any other, I would have to point to the first time I was exposed to the internet. Yes, kids, I grew up in an age before we were all connected online, and I vividly remember sitting in front of a computer screen while someone talked me through how much easier this new thing was going to make my life. In those days it was mainly a work tool, but, within a few years it had transformed my working life.
It was a bit longer before the web started to encroach in a big way into my personal life; but it was when social networking started to take off, first with MySpace, then with Facebook, that my daily life really changed. And, not only that, but the social web gave me the opportunity to build a whole new career around communicating online. And I became increasingly convinced that the social web, by bringing people together, whether like-minded change-agents, or people who needed and could offer help, could be a force for social good.
But as I became more aware of the numbers of people (declining, but persisting) who remained excluded from the benefits of being online, it became a mission of mine to address this issue. One of my seminal experiences came in 2012 when I was contracted to manage Our Digital Planet, Nominet Trust’s project which toured city centres coupling an exhibition of giant photographs about innovative uses of the internet with a portakabin full of laptops where those whose interests had been stimulated could get advice and assistance on their journey online. This experience taught me an awful lot about the individual triggers that can change people’s minds about letting the internet into their lives. This project highlighted some principles which I have applied to my work ever since. These are:
- Go to where people are, don’t wait for them to come to you;
- Reasons for using the internet are different. Some can be harder to find than others;
- No one voluntarily begins using the internet because they want to access Government services;
- Most people use the internet for fun. The newcomer’s introduction should also be fun;
- Show people what others do with the internet. They might want to join in;
- Demonstrate that internet use is a part of “normal”, everyday life.
Our Digital Planet came to an end basically because it was very expensive to move it around. However, I was subsequently able to help Leeds Federated Housing Association establish the HUGO Project which included an internet bus, a converted coach. It has been great to witness the buzz created by the bus as it visits Leeds housing estates, and it has begun to branch out farther afield through partnerships with other organisations.
But even the HUGO bus is quite big, and it costs a fair bit to get it on the road. This is why I have launched DigiCamper http://www.digicamper.co.uk, a crowdfunding campaign to acquire and operate the ultimate mobile digital inclusion facility in a campervan. And because I’ve had such success with another means of taking digital inclusion to where people are, the Digital Tea Party, the emphasis of DigiCamper will be on tech chat and advice over a cup of tea made on the campervan stove. Oh, and hopefully there will be cake too….. mmmm…. cake.
I want to take DigiCamper to places other projects cannot reach. And the prize for all this is not just breaking down social isolation and enabling people to shop online. We know that amazing advances in telehealth and telecare are on the way that will transform people’s lives and their health. But often, the very people who will benefit from these initiatives the most are the most reluctant to let them into their lives because of their suspicion of new technologies. That’s why we need facilities such as Digicamper to show people the internet is fun, non-threatening, and life-enhancing. ”
If you can contribute to help get DigiCamper off the ground, please do so. If you can’t then please tell your friends and colleagues.
Visit http://www.digicamper.co.uk for more information and to join this amazing initiative to drive digital inclusion.