Social media, digital inclusion ... winds of change ....


With just over two weeks to go until the LGA's Annual Conference in Birmingham, things are getting mighty busy in the communications department here. Last year we experimented with social media properly for the first time. We admit we were a bit scattergun in our approach; blogging and tweeting about anything and everything. We think that was a bit too much. This year we have a more considered approach and instead of the blast of corporate broadcasting, we'll be encouraging many more delegates to commentate on proceedings with the hashtag #lgaconf12.
That brings me onto the profile of our delegates who tend to be senior officers and councillors. We have amongst them some mighty social media advocates who have used the medium to great effect. However we also have our first timers and those who are completely adverse to it. In our small attempt to encourage the uptake of social media in these more senior circles, we will be running peer-to-peer surgeries at the conference particularly aimed at councillors. As a follow up, we also plan to go on the road nationwide during international Social Media Week which runs 24-28 September 2012. If your council would be willing to host a workshop with us, please do get in touch.
I was at the National Digital Conference last week at old Billingsgate in London. If you're not familiar with it, it's an annual conference that focuses on digital inclusion. It's grown out of Martha Lane Fox's initiative 'Race online 2012' which has now morphed into Go On UK and works closely with UK Online Centres - run by the excellent Helen Milner who seems to have boundless amounts of energy! There were some good speakers and general enthusiasm in the room (although, personally, I think the format could do with a bit of a shake up...) Looking back through the tweets coming from local government people at the event and beyond, there was general concern about the lack of sector representation (on the stage at least). There's a lot more we need to do to raise the profile of the good work local government is doing with digital inclusion and next year I hope we are at the centre of it. I could write paragraphs on this subject but will leave the thought lingering for now. In the meantime, I would very much welcome your ideas on this subject. Feel free to comment (the stronger the better!) or tweet me - @LadyLeoLion
Wishing you all enjoyable if blustery weekends!

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Former Member 7 Years Ago
Great post Sarah and I'm pleased that digital inclusion is making its way back on to the LGA agenda. Hopefully, this time, there will be opportunities to focus on the real issues of service delivery. While the Race Online approach has had a number of beneficial outcomes not least keeping digital inclusion in the public and political domain it has failed and will continue to fail to reach a key audience. That is those who are hardest to reach and most excluded and who are, at the same time, the most demanding of and the most expensive users of public services. For people whose lives are chaotic access to services is not a "shopping" experience and yet these are potentially the people who have most to gain. To address the real needs of this sector we need to understand the role of those organisations who operate there every day in the voluntary and community sector, we need to understand their skill requirements and how we can assist them in making ICTs accessible to their client groups. We also need to accept that any use of ICTs with hard to reach groups must address their needs, strengthen their networks and support their survival strategies. These will not be the same needs and strategies as those who wish to save money on line by booking holidays and shopping at Waitrose (or M & S for that matter). We have to have faith that hard to reach groups are more than capable of managing much in their environment in ways that might not agree with the approach of the majority of people. This doesn't mean that their approach is wrong nor does it mean that we should not listen to the criticisms that they might make about what others do and how others approach the problems. As an example look at the work of Rangswammy and Cutrell with youths in the Indian slums . There are pople thinking about how social media can make a difference at the sharp end of service delivery and within the organisation not least Martin Howitt and Carl Haggerty with whom I've had an interesting discussion . Finally, when we re-visit digital inclusion this time let us not forget that: digital inclusion is big "...You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to" digital inclusion (with sincere apologies to Douglas Adams) There is a tendency to focus on "the answer" but just like the number 42 this approach does not take account of the scale of the problem and its many facets. Maybe this time around we can think about just how big a problem it is and we can think about a direction of travel which, ultimately, may lead to the empowerment of the dis-empowered, which is what we're all about isn't it?