State of Sheffield and Sheffield Fairness Logos

This week we’ve been browsing the State of Sheffield 2013 and the Sheffield Fairness reports, which takes a look at some of the differences and difficulties that our city’s residents encounter. The reports suggest ways to tackle these issues, and naturally we were interested in what they had to say about Sheffield from a digital perspective.

The Fairness Report notes that in many ways Sheffield is a divided city. There is a geological divide between deprived and affluent areas, and there is also a ‘digital divide'. Those affected by benefit reforms are particularly at risk of exclusion from digital technology.

A City Wide Approach

Within 10 years the Fairness Commission want see “digital use a routine part of everyday life for everyone in the city”. The hope is that this will maximise social, educational, economic and civic opportunities. The goal is to ensure affordable access to the Internet, which in turn will give people the skills and confidence to use online services.

A city wide approach to digital inclusion would enable organisations to connect with people in different ways and to provide services more effectively. It would also provide economic benefits for the city.

It is clear that the internet is becoming an essential part of our day to day life.  From browsing energy companies to completing UK government forms, the ability to interact online puts an individual at a clear advantage.  What is not clear is how we can best measure the national numbers of those who are engaged online and those who are ‘digitally excluded’.

Do You Have A Computer

A recent report on Digital Exclusion, from April 2012, by the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group surveyed over 750 respondents with this opening question - “Do you have a computer?”  In today’s mobile society, do we include devices such as tablets and smartphones under the term ‘computer’? Someone might not have a PC or a laptop, but they might have an iPad or the latest smartphone with 3G connectivity.

The way we measure digital exclusion and the questions we ask needs to be addressed to ensure that we are using the best quality data before making decisions about how to help. In the coming weeks we will be looking at this problem in more detail and proposing possible solutions.  The common approach - desktop PCs with traditional ADSL connections and classroom based training - adopted by many councils and well-meaning organisations is not going to be enough to see real change.

If you have thoughts on the matter we would love to hear from you, so please get in touch or comment below