Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Understanding digital exclusion: homeless people ‘I think for young people WiFi is almost a human right. You want us to succeed in the world and achieve our potential but nowadays that means accessing the internet for everything and we should be able to do this in a private and quiet space not just the communal area of a shared hostel.’ This comes from a new Lemos and Crane report on access, use and benefits of digital technology for homeless and ex-homeless people. The research uses two related samples – a questionnaire survey (the Lemos & Crane sample) and a survey conducted by Groundswell peer researchers. There are one or two striking findings. For instance: 73% of the Lemos & Crane participants said they used the internet to keep in touch with family and friends. That leaves a whopping 27 per cent who aren’t. 47% of the Groundswell participants agreed that the internet had information ‘which can make you paranoid’. This may be explained partly by the wording of the question, which seems slightly leading, but it’s still an indication of a sense of vulnerability. Participants typically felt confident using Facebook and other social media sites ‘but found office and word processing programmes difficult.’ ‘The majority learned by teaching themselves. Only 8% learned through training provided at services, typically older participants.’ ‘Problems included people posting unwanted pictures or comments on profiles, having profiles hacked and people finding them using Facebook with whom they no longer wanted contact. These specific concerns were mentioned by respondents across all age groups.’ Using an open question, the researchers found that participants expressed concerns about losing face-to-face contact with people: ‘There were two aspects of this concern: that loss of face-to-face contact would reduce levels of trust and connection between people, increasing isolation (67% of Groundswell respondents agreed that phones or computers stop people communicating properly) and that complex online systems would make accessing services more difficult.’ There’s a summary and a full report here (simple sign up required). (I recommend the full report as the summary shows signs of haste and lack of editing).

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