As doteveryone said at the launch, the publication of People, Power and Tech is the start of a process of debate and change. The opportunity to build a stronger focus on digital understanding into inclusion and education programmes is important; the focus on reinforcing the responsibility of the tech sector equally so. But there is an even broader context: drawing on this and other work, we have an opportunity to rebase our relationship with tech to build in greater awareness of, and protection from the risks it poses whilst maintaining the benefits it offers.
A range of projects are doing important and related work in this space: a new proposal for harm reduction in social media commissioned by the Carnegie UK Trust, the Government's work on a Digital Charter, a project focusing on data privacy from the Corsham Institute, and the latest Ofcom Adults' Media Use and Attitudes report 2018 with findings that support those in doteveryone's report. Bringing this work together is an urgent and essential task.
At Good Things Foundation we believe in the power of digital to transform lives, and the social imperative to help those who have been left behind. So at the launch of People, Power and Tech I was delighted to be asked to say a few words about some new experimental work we're taking forward that will contribute to the debate.
In a previous post I outlined our interest in how people adapt to digital technology. Technology has changed our environment and will continue to do so, and like all animals we adapt to changes in our environment by changing our behaviour.
These behaviours are the micro-attitudes and micro-aptitudes we display unconsciously as we build our relationship with digital: from the first place we go to find information online to the number of times we check our devices. As well as helping us use digital technology, they also influence our confidence, capability and resilience in a digital world - and ultimately our wellbeing.
At Good Things we want to explore digitally adaptive behaviours, and the process of digital inclusion - helping people engage with technology for the first time, or deepen their engagement - gives us a vehicle to see how these behaviours develop.
We're interested in two key questions:
- How can we help the people who need the greatest help? As well as benefits, technology also creates significant risks, and those who are offline or have low digital skills - as many as 5m and 11m people respectively - are arguably more susceptible to these risks.
- What can digital inclusion tell us about the development of digitally adaptive behaviours? By seeing how digitally excluded people build strategies for engaging with digital technology, we can learn more about how adaptation to digital happens for everyone.
Leading on from this, there are even bigger issues to explore, all of which play into the broader debate about digital and society. What is the future of digital inclusion? Does the accelerating change in tech mean that all of us will need digital inclusion support in the future? And what are the long term implications of tech changing our environment: are things getting better, or worse, or staying about the same?
I'm delighted that we'll be partnering with Demos to explore these issues. By working with Online Centres and the people they help, we want to test how digital inclusion interventions affect the development of digitally adaptive behaviour. We'll use concepts like adaptive problem solving to measure how people make use of technology, and will look at both offline and online behaviour to develop a richer picture of how people build effective relationships with digital. Ultimately, we're interested in how digital can be a force for good, helping us maximise our wellbeing as we move through life.
We strongly welcome doteveryone's new report, and look forward to contributing to the debate as it moves forward from here.