Motivation, skills, access: the three big barriers to people getting online to benefit from everything the internet has to offer.
Hopefully it goes without saying that Tinder Foundation – and our network of UK online centres – have made a significant impact when it comes to skills – more than one and a quarter million people have got the basic online skills they need in a UK online centre in the last four years.
When it comes to motivation, we’ve also done our part. Our eighth national Get Online Week takes place 13-19 October, and we estimate that around 50,000 people will be engaged to see what they can do online.
Day to day, our network does some amazing outreach work in places like schools, care homes, mosques, social clubs and community centres proving to those not convinced about the power of technology that it really can change their life.
As for access, the 5,000+ UK online centres throughout the country are an invaluable resource, but increasingly, that’s not enough. We need to get to grips with Home Access, and it’s proved a difficult – and expensive – nut to crack.
For people to really make the most of an online life, for the internet to help them feel less isolated, for it save someone money, or help them get back into work it has to be personal and that means in the home.
We know there are several key barriers to home access (both internet and devices) for many people. While the costs of devices are coming down, for those most in need of the benefits being online can bring, £100 for a tablet is still an unachievable goal.
Even for those who can afford it, the sheer variety of devices, the differences between them and what they all do can be a minefield – with many opting out of buying altogether, rather than spend their money on an inappropriate piece of kit.
Arguably the bigger problem is the cost of the connection to the internet itself. With the vast majority of broadband contracts being linked to telephone contracts, those on a fixed budgets, living with only a mobile phone they top up when they can, sustained and reliable connectivity at home is a pipe dream (no pun intended). For some, there isn’t a bank account from which to set up a direct debit. How do these people reap the rewards of getting online at home?
The team at Tinder Foundation have been trying some new approaches to see if we can bridge the gap and break down at least some of these barriers, our latest Home Access project, funded by BIS, provided UK online centres with a variety of devices, so people looking to buy a device can make sure they get something that fulfills their needs.
The Learn My Way website has also provided online tools to help people find the most affordable connection for their requirements.
The access nut is going to prove a tough one to crack but I think these sorts of pilots and trials are really going to help us figure out what people need and how best to get it to them. Indeed, the evidence is compelling, and you can read our full report here, or just meet some of the people we’ve helped try-before-they-buy, in this short video.
Funding for this kind of activity isn’t always easy to find, or maintain, but out of the three barriers I mentioned above, I think access is the one where corporate partners can have a pretty hefty impact.
Vodafone recently published an independent report – Mobile: A powerful tool for Digital Inclusion – and on the back of this, they’re working with us on a pilot research project. Together we’ll be targeting specific groups of isolated learners (providing both devices and a ‘mobile internet’ course) to try and track the impact of mobile devices on levels of both digital and social inclusion.
We are also working closely with other private sector partners on how to get the most excluded in society online at home. We’ll be announcing the details of these exciting projects in the coming weeks and months, so do keep an eye out!
Arguably, these are companies that have a vested interest in getting more people online and using their services, but I can tell you from personal experience that they’re also organisations with strong sense of social responsibility and I think it’s a big step in the right direction to helping those most in need find a way to joining those engaging with everything the web has to offer, from the comfort of their own home. (Assuming rural broadband gets sorted … ) This a big step in the right direction to getting everyone online by 2020.