A digital health birthday

Yesterday, Tinder Foundation, NHS England, the Department of Health, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and community delivery partners, got together to celebrate the first birthday of our Widening Participation in Digital Health programme.

nhs-eventWe’ve all been working together for the last year to address health inequalities by engaging those at increased risk of poor health in digital activities, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to manage and feel more in control of their health with online resources, and reap the wider rewards of digital inclusion at the same time.

There have been 14 flagship projects trialling new engagement approaches and partnerships across the country, a network of new Digital Health centres using new resources and our new Learn My Way course, and literally hundreds of digital health events promoting digital health literacy in local communities.

And we’re pretty proud of the results:

  • 100,000 people engaged in digital health activities
  • 82% of them socially excluded, and therefore those in most need of NHS services
  • 60,000 trained to use NHS Choices and other health websites
  • 99% user satisfaction

You can read more about the first year of the programme in our online report at nhs.tinderfoundation.org, including our video summary, or see the summary on the NHS website here.

I strongly believe that digital health literacy is key in improving the National Health Service, and even in safeguarding it for the future. Because by putting power, choice and knowledge into the hands of patients, we are both relieving pressure and independently improving health and well being through community and digital engagement. That’s certainly the consensus of those gathered at yesterday’s events, and I thought that for a change I’d ask others to add their voices to my blog…

“The widening Digital Participation programme is having a really positive effect on people’s lives through better digital health skills. Reducing isolation and loneliness is just one way technology can help and when a lot of evidence suggests that this is as great a risk to the health and wellbeing to the elderly population as obesity, it show’s how important the work is. I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s achieved in year 2.”
Bob Gann, Programme Director – Widening Digital Participation, NHS England

“We’re so pleased to have been confirmed as a flagship centre for the second year of Widening Digital Participation. Today, it’s been really inspiring to hear what other centres have achieved, especially those working with GP’s surgeries, as that’s a big part of our plan for year 2.”
Liz Whale, Southampton Libraries

“We’ve had some amazing experiences as part of the programme. I was really proud to be able to help one man with what seemed to be severe anxiety and depression issues get the support he needed, all thanks to the Moodzone assessment tool on NHS Choices. I’m really looking forward to helping even more people this year.”
Dave Edeson, Inspire Communities Hull

“I’ve been hugely impressed by what I’ve heard about the Widening Digital Participation flagships today. The breadth of impact the projects are having in their communities is really inspiring. They are clearly making a real difference to people’s health and lives.”
Rachel Neaman, Department of Health.

I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to catch up with Rachel Neaman, currently of Dnhs-event-2epartment of Health, who this week has been announced as the new Chief Executive of Go ON UK. I’m delighted she’s going to be at the helm of the UK’s digital skills alliance, but obviously disappointed that it means she can longer be on Tinder Foundation’s board. It does, however, mean that we do get to keep working together, and that the digital inclusion sector has a brilliant and energetic new champion.

Now it’s time for us all to look towards Year 2 of Widening Digital Health Participation. This year, we want to give our funders at NHS England even more value for money, and set ourselves even bigger targets and challenges to do so.

I’ve talked often about Tinder Foundation’s Discover/Seed/Scale model, and if Year 1 was ‘discover’, it’s now time to take those lessons and findings, seed those ideas, and scale our delivery. And if the ideas and plans I heard from delivery partners yesterday is anything to go by, we’re in for another amazing year. With their help, I’m looking forward to helping even more people take control of their health, and take advantage of technology in every other area of their lives.

Watch this space for updates.

Power to you – Vodafone, mobile internet, and the digital divide

Mobile internet is often hailed as the solution to digital exclusion, and I’ve heard technologists, politicians and economists talk about how it’s smart phones and smart TVs that will reach the people and places PCs and laptops couldn’t hope to get to, and magically transform them into confident internet users.

The stats are significant. The latest Ofcom report found that the number of people using a tablet to go online almost doubled from 16% to 30% in the last year, and more than a ⅓ of smartphone users use their phone to buy things online – up from ¼ in 2012. Mobile internet has made getting online easier, quicker, and more convenient, with simple, attractive interfaces offering anytime, anywhere information, connections and transactions.

However, the fact is that there are still not that many people who are ONLY online on their tablet. The Oxford Internet Survey shows that only 1.6% of people use a tablet as their sole device for accessing the internet, showing that for the majority mobile broadband is complementary and not a means for inclusion.

The idea that the rise of mobile internet should automatically prompt a rise in internet usage by traditional non-users assumes the digital divide is far simpler an issue than it actually is. The fact is there is no silver bullet here – mobile or otherwise. Those left behind are there for myriad social, economic and personal reasons, and as the divide narrows and deepens we need to be more innovative, faster and yes – smarter.

At grassroots level, UK online centres see both the potential and the confusion of mobile internet. People come in with hand-me-down smartphones and tablets wanting support to use them, but not understanding when and how they’re online.

Working together, Vodafone UK and Tinder Foundation are going to see how we can best bridge the gap between the potential benefits of mobile internet and its use by digitally excluded audiences.

Working with the UK online centres network we will help centres people to get to grips with smartphones, tablets and MiFi (portable wifi hotspots). We’ll be distributing leaflets introducing beginners to the world of mobile broadband, and introducing a new, free course on Learn My Way. And for people living in our pilot areas, we’ll be launching a ‘hands-on mobile’ scheme where a handful of centres will be given Vodafone smartphones, tablets, and MiFis to loan out to local people.

tablet2The fact is that mobile internet does have lots of advantages for whole sub-sets of those left offline. Coinciding with the launch of our partnership, Vodafone UK is also launching a new independent report called Mobile: A powerful tool for Digital Inclusion. It looks at how mobile solutions might be made to work for those resistant to existing, pc-related inclusion programmes. It’s well worth a read.

Smartphones and tablets are in fact easier for older people to master than traditional PCs and laptops, with touch screen technology and bespoke apps often more intuitive than their computer-based counterparts. If you don’t want to be bothered with learning the keyboard, if you find mouse control difficult, this could be much more attractive way to get online and make it work to do exactly and only what you want it to do.

But not everything can be done on a mobile device. CVs, letters, job applications, long and complex benefit forms – all of these really do need a keyboard and a big screen. The good news is that mobile-internet doesn’t just mean phones and tablets. I’m keen that we help people understand the choices they’ve got, including that they can get the benefits of mobile internet via a MiFi or mobile hotspot (through their phone) to get online on a laptop but with all the flexibility of a pay-as-you-go broadband connection and/or a small top-up on a smartphone contract. For many people – for instance those who move frequently – getting a telephone landline in order to get fixed broadband and committing to a contract over a number of months is a significant factor preventing internet use.

It’s not that the mobile broadband options aren’t available, it’s that the people who need them don’t understand that these choices are there for them.

When we personalise the internet for each individual, in terms of content, cost, access, interface, usability and user-confidence, it makes a 100% digitally enabled nation a thing of reality and an ambition worth working for. Helping people to see the benefits of the web, helping them to develop basic online skills and to find a personal broadband solution that works for them – that really does give power to you.

How do we measure miracles?

It’s my last day in the US today and I’ve been bowled over by the friendship and positivity of the Americans I’ve met. The libraries, community centres, and various intermediary organisations I’ve been talking with are as committed as we are to great, local and relevant digital inclusion support. And we’re all struggling with working out how to use our precious human resource for maximum impact and helping as many people as we can to benefit from the web.

One thing I’ve been talking about is the ‘network effect’ of working collaboratively. For my day job that means working with 5,000 UK online centres and access points – having a shared vision of a better connected society, a clear voice to policy makers and corporate partners, and a great platform, Learn My Way, for data collection and evidencing our outcomes and impact. I blogged a few weeks ago about the Network Webinar I led where I got the chance to talk to UK online centres staff about their perceived value of the network (“the best bits”), the societal issues they have to deal with, and how we can find better solutions by working together. That is what I mean by the ‘network effect’: realising greater impact by having a shared goal and by working together to achieve it.

I got great feedback following my SHLB presentation yesterday on “Measuring the impact of digital inclusion at scale”. You can see the slides here. There are lots of very familiar stories at this conference, of exceptional local people giving time and patience to help those lacking the confidence and capability to use the web, and of people whose lives have been transformed with new confidence and self-worth, as well as jobs, friendship and fulfillment. In my session I talked about how do we measure the outcomes of this amazing work and how do we value this transformation, the impact. One way Tinder Foundation do this is with data and surveys – we do the math. Our surveys show that 84,280 people have moved from no job to having a job in the past four years via UK online centres; we know that the saving to the UK Government of someone getting a job is at least £8,000 per person per year; that’s a £678m saving to the UK Government (over $1bn in American). And that’s not mentioning the £232.4m saved in people moving from face-to-face and telephone contacts with Government to online services, or the £137m added to the UK economy by 132,440 people starting volunteering in their communities.

Helping Roger to move from 10 years of homelessness to volunteering in a UK online centre (in a hostel) to a job to a promotion (a better job) where he is helping other homeless people to get an education and get employment, is a miracle.

Turning a c. £35m investment in a digital literacy programme (not a work or employment programme) into a saving of £678m ($1.115bn) “just” by helping 84,280 people into work is a miracle too … and one that we can measure.

Philadelphia & Partnership: Digital Inclusion in Action

I’m in the US this week, mainly to speak at the SHLB (Schools, Health, Libraries, Broadband) conference – but of course also to meet people and hear about their digital inclusion experiences across the pond. It’s strange being so far from home and for lots to be so different, but for so much to be familiar too.

One thing I was really looking forward to was the trip I made yesterday to Philadelphia. In the US there was a big federal funded programme called BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Programme) and the City of Philadelphia and partners received a three year grant to establish 80 Public Computer Centres, to train people to use the internet and to encourage Broadband Adoption. Obviously this echoes the UK online centres network, and I was curious to see the results of this model in America.

The programme was in fact a great success and completed in June 2013. The City of Philadelphia is now supporting 44 of those centres – 19 run by the Parks & Recreation Department, 5 run by the Free Library of Philadelphia (the public libraries), and 10 supported in the community. Yesterday I visited two centres in North Philadelphia; the Mercy Neighbourhood Ministries centre supported by the Philadelphia Free Library (PFL), and the Martin Luther King Rec Centre supported by Parks & Recreation.

The communities these centres serve are ones where unemployment and poverty are high, and opportunities are limited. The learners I met were mostly looking for work, and just like with the UK’s Universal Jobmatch system, they needed needed to be looking and applying online. Health was another key theme, which also echoes our priorities back home. Ben – a manager for Parks and Recreation – said that when Obamacare was launched they set the homepage for all of the computers in their 19 centres to the Obamacare site.

At the Mercy Neighbourhood Centre I met Executive Director Sister Ann. Her centre is a multi-use centre focused on supporting local people – adults, children and families. The Sisters are committed to doing what’s needed to make sure local people are safe, supported and fed. They have a day centre for adults with severe disabilities and dementia, providing essentials such as food and showers. The support for children looks exceptional – day care, pre-school breakfast clubs, after school ‘cold supper’ and homework clubs.

FIGHT Launch_Client Support

The computer centre is well used by local people – looking for work mostly, plus people who have never used the web before and need help with the basics. They get support from Ashton – the Digital Resource Specialist (DRS) provided by the Library, and the broadband is provided by the Library too. I was impressed that you can join the Library online and get the online services there straightaway – so in theory someone can join the Library at the Mercy Neighbourhood Centre and then get help and support from Ashton to download an e-book onto a phone, tablet or e-book device. The multi-use centre is bright, sunny, and colourful, and it truly does feel safe, full of love and opportunity.

I don’t think we have anything like the Parks & Recreation Department in the UK, and if we do I’ve never met them on my digital inclusion visits before! In Philadelphia there are about 150 Rec Centres – a building alongside a community basketball court, a baseball pitch and a children’s playground. The buildings support indoor sports and after school clubs.

In the UK the closest thing we have is probably Leisure Centres (big places in the centre of town usually). In Philly a Rec Centre is much more of a community space, and much less plush. Philly has a similar population to Birmingham UK, and has 150 Rec Centres. That’s pretty impressive. Ben and Kevin support 19 computer centres inside the 150 Rec Centres, and the Martin Luther King Rec Centre is one of the larger ones. They encourage the Seniors (adults) to come before 3pm to get quiet time and more one-on-one support from the Centre Support person. After 3pm it’s all about the children, who arrive and spend time playing games, using the computers, kicking a ball around or climbing in the playground. Krystal runs this centre and is clearly adored, trusted and respected in equal measure by adults new to the web and the after-school kids alike.

The City has stepped up and sustained this programme after the federal money ended. It is clearly making a lot of difference to people’s lives and the benefits we often talk about around tangible outcomes such as jobs, communications, access to benefits, and saving money. What’s more, the less tangible benefits are also there in spades – improved confidence, self esteem, and perhaps most importantly, aspiration.

The only thing missing in my mind was Learn My Way – or something like it. The excellence of the support in the centres depends very much on the number and previous web-experience of centre users coming in at any one time. Krystal told me that if someone completely new to the internet comes in and she’s busy she books a session with them to come back at a quieter time – as her only resource is herself. Both Krystal and Ashton help people learn how to use the web in their own way and using their own knowledge and experience. While it’s clear they’re brilliant at their jobs, I wonder if sharing this knowledge and experience and building on something like Learn My Way might make them more effective in busy times? What’s more, they’d have the data on performance, too, and the evidence to show why they should keep being supported to do what they do so well.

I want to say an enormous thank you to Ashley Del Bianco who I met last year at SHLB (after doing some research on the web and already being impressed with her work). I am sure that much of the success in the Philadelphia partnership is down to Ashley’s collaborative style, expertise, strategic vision, and sheer hard work. Thank you to Ashley for showing me around, and for her hospitality. And the very best of luck to her, Eliza, Sister Ann, Ben, Kevin, Krystal, Ashton, Harry, Brian, and Scott – just a few of the fantastic and inspirational people I met.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.