Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This Is A Real Issue That Deserves Much More Coverage As Well As A Lot More Thought.

This appeared a last week:

Goodbye Digital Divide, Hello Digital Equity (and why we need to go the extra mile to get it)

Editor: Dr Ruth Armstrong Author: Lareen Newman and Mike Gurstein on: May 17, 2016
In the third annual Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition, entrants were asked to answer the question, “In the digital era, whose voices are being heard?”
The winning essay in the competition, by Amin Ansari, was published in Inside Story earlier this year, and it is Croakey’s privilege to post here a runner-up essay by Lareen Newman and Mike Gurstein.
As well as honouring the work and writings of Professor Mooney, the competition seeks to draw public attention to the topic he was most passionate about: social justice and health equity.
Newman and Gurstein’s thesis is therefore particularly pertinent when they ask, “whose voices are not being heard?” and introduce the concept of “digital equity, where everyone is able to get online according to their need and to achieve what is meaningful to them in their daily life, and where all unfair and avoidable differences are eliminated.”

Lareen Newman and Mike Gurstein write:

This essay will argue that in the digital era, the question “whose voices are not being heard” is as important as asking whose voices are being heard. We will suggest that we need to go the Extra Mile to achieve digital equity so that everyone’s voice has a chance to be heard.
We commonly hear the voices of some (particularly those in positions of power or privilege) claiming that “everyone is online these days”.  We will show that this is a First Digital Myth and moreover a myth which is increasingly being used as justification for moving to a whole range of activities (often exclusively) to the online environment.

The First Digital Myth: Everyone’s online

Whether it be national government services, local government information, research surveys, personal and community support programs, education and health services and more, everyone (that is people like “us”) seems to be jumping onto the “apps and websites bandwagon” – so it must be good!
In many cases, the First Myth provides the rationale for removing the physical counterpart to the digital service or for not providing easy and quality options for those who are not online or who, for whatever reason, do not wish to go online.

Many kinds of Divide

Despite the First Myth, national and survey data show that sharp inequities in Internet access persist in Australia even in the midst of the current “digital plenty”. People have talked about the “Access Divide” (people technically connecting to the internet—or not) and the “Use Divide” (whether people having access are able to make effective use of this access).
We are now seeing a “Speed Divide” emerge along predictable (and hence avoidable) socioeconomic and geographic lines as Australia’s National Broadband Network rolls out; those who are online variously take up faster speeds, and Internet-based services are designed based on higher (and thus more costly) internet speeds. New inequities are also to be expected based on faster and more complex (and thus in many instances more costly or necessarily upgraded) devices.
Of course, none of these “divides” would be a problem if offline opportunities were equal in quality and timeliness to their online counterparts. But as many aspects of life go online in the digital age, it is well to remember that those who are on the wrong side of one or another of these “divides” are almost inevitably the same people who are on the wrong side of other social and economic divides.  They are thus often in greater need of services, information and other supports.
Vastly more reading is found here:
The points made are really valid. The madness of the myHR, which will be inaccessible to many of the patients who might be helped by it, is only the start.
The whole move to moving so many services on line, when so many can’t use them is a real problem for which I have seen no solution - other than retention of the ‘steam’ measures of access.
The list of potentially blocking issues are pretty wide and overcoming them will be very hard indeed:
“People in focus groups since 2008 have indicated a wide range of reasons why they aren’t online, including:
  • Literacies – technical and digital
  • Low levels of trust of telecommunications companies (feeling “ripped off”, experiencing bill-shock)
  • Inability to comprehend or compare digital costs and contracts
  • Having unstable or unpredictable income
  • Lacking motivation, confidence, cognition, and feeling anxious online
  • Having little or no social connections to help get them online, fix problems
  • Having only basic reading and writing ability (even for native English speakers)
  • Having a disability and physical inability (eg dexterity, eyesight)
  • Having neighbours and/or friends who might steal their device
  • Inability to “keep up” with devices (compatibility/functions)”
Has anyone seen the DoH plans on how the disempowered and internet deprived are going to be supported.
I haven’t.

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