What is digital inclusion?
The NHS defines digital inclusion as:
Digital skills - being able to use digital devices (such as computers or smart phones and the internet).
Connectivity - access to the internet through broadband, wi-fi and mobile.
Accessibility - services need to be designed to meet all users’ needs, including those dependent on assistive technology to access digital services.
Research for the government’s UK Digital Strategy suggests that there are a number of barriers to digital inclusion, and these include:
Access - not everyone has the ability to connect to the internet and go online.
Skills - not everyone has the ability to use the internet and online services.
Confidence - some people fear online crime, lack trust or don’t know where to start online.
Motivation - not everyone sees why using the internet could be relevant and helpful.
The Good Things Foundation states that: “A lack of digital skills and access can have a huge negative impact on a person’s life, leading to poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy, increased loneliness and social isolation, less access to jobs and education.
“It can mean paying more for essentials, financial exclusion, an increased risk of experiencing poverty. People who are digitally excluded also lack a voice and visibility in the modern world, as government services and democracy increasingly move online.
“What’s more, it’s those already at a disadvantage – through age, education, income, disability, or unemployment – who are most likely to be missing out, further widening the social inequality gap.”
How can libraries help?
There are many people and organisations looking at how to improve digital inclusion, and libraries are uniquely placed to contribute to this effort. Located in the hearts of their communities, free to visit, and with cheap or free access to wi-fi, PCs and printing facilities, libraries can bridge the gap for people lacking access to the digital world.
What many libraries also do is offer help and support to members of the public struggling with a lack of digital skills. More and more libraries are offering training, ‘get online’ sessions, and ‘digital support champions’.
The new LibraryOn website www.libraryon.org illustrates this brilliantly with a quote from a customer of Southend-on-Sea Libraries: “My devices cost a fortune but I wasn’t using them effectively. Now I take them to tablet taster sessions every fortnight and get all my questions answered.”
What part can Insight Media play?
Our products are all aimed at supporting libraries with their PC bookings, printing, wi-fi printing, and wi-fi access services. iCAM is a complete suite of products that work independently or together, and also integrate with third party self-service kiosks, printers and other hardware to provide digital access for library members.
Whether visitors want to use a library PC to access the internet, print a CV to aid their job search, or bring their own device and make use of the library’s wi-fi, iCAM products support the library to increase digital inclusion.