Published 5th September 2016 by Joey Shaddock
Martha Lane Fox, the government’s digital champion, says that ten million people are lacking the skills to access the Internet. We took her comments and animated them, to highlight something people miss about the digital skills gap. Yes, there is a gap for businesses, but there is a whole swathe of society who cannot access the basic advantages the internet or computers have to offer.
So, how did this happen? There is a certain element of dismissiveness of older people. Think of how far technology has come. It has gone from the technologically savvy being able to fix their radios at home to the bland silver boxes that even those who consider relatively techie wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, or more realistically a screwdriver. Older people, my grandad included, want this same level of understanding. Technology has moved so fast now, that it’s completely impossible to provide this.
Marketing for these big products focuses exclusively on how they make us feel, or the potential of having a world connected together, working together, they don’t want us to think about the processes that got us there, the component parts which power this new connected future. So we don’t think about it, we just use it, but that leaves us no more confident in our use of technology.
Technology has gone from the understandable with a little bit of physics, like radios or cars, to the bland silver boxes of Apples Macs and Android phones, which seem to deliberately repel understanding. You would have to be the most foolhardy of users to advance on with a screw driver. No wonder the generation that were brought up on make do and mend, feel a bit a loss the modern technology. Don’t worry, I’m not going to argue that we all need to be able to fix our laptops ourselves in order to feel confident with technology.
We need to create a way of talking about technology which makes it more accessible. At Circus Street, we try and do this by explaining how technology works on its most basic level. It’s not just older people who need more confidence, confidence to talk about tech needs raising on all levels. When we say, we don’t know how things work and we don’t try to understand, that builds up the myth that the mobile phones, the internet, or social media for example, are too complicated for the average person to understand. They are not.
The driving force of all this change, the Internet and/or the web is a prime example of how we can do this. There is nothing to point to there, even though the internet travels along cables just the same as telephones do, they are just tucked out of the way of prying eyes. The web, though, thats a different kettle of fish. Move along, grandma, there is literally nothing to see here. It’s just web pages, which you cannot reach out touch, linked together. The web is good practice for the rest of these technological change- it’s just loads of webpages linked together using a special language HTML.
People have the same mental block with technology than they do with maths. You cannot be right or wrong about technology. You don’t need to know how to fix it to understand it, or to use it. It’s a tool, embrace it! As people within the tech industry, we need to do our best to demystify it, to explain our jobs when we are down the pub, to try and help others when they are struggling. Spread the knowledge and build other’s confidence in technology.