23rd January 2013
By Graham Walker, Go ON UK CEO
Relaxing at the weekend, having just enjoyed another great episode of Danish political drama Borgen, I happened to flick to a re-run of Celebrity Apprentice USA. I was hooked. Why? It just happened to be the episode where former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich was asked to research something online.
He couldn’t turn the computer on, search or type his findings. Despite having been responsible for a workforce of tens of thousands and being a great communicator, he has no Basic Online Skills. It came as little surprise when project manager and ex Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson called him the least effective team member in Donald Trump's Boardroom. I won’t tell you if he was fired in case you watch it!
It’s a lesson to us all that even people in senior positions don’t always have Basic Online Skills. While over the last couple of weeks we’ve been bombarded with the latest whiz bang tech ideas from the CES show in Vegas, there are still 16 million people in the UK alone without the skills to use them.
One of my top three priorities for Go ON UK this year is to drive innovation. One of the big themes at CES was touchscreen tech. While I’m always suspicious of people who say that technology solves everything – here it comes – I really do think that 2013 could be the year touch begins to revolutionise how we encourage and support people to take their first steps online.
In my extended family I can see how tablets and e-Readers are bringing online information and services to new users. As importantly, I’m seeing and hearing about older lapsed internet users coming back online through tablets. The market data seems to support this. Dixon's reported selling five tablets per second in the week before Christmas, and PC shipments dropped by 6% in Q4 2012. Industry experts now tell me that they expect almost all devices shipped next year to have touchscreens.
What’s really interesting is how we should encourage and support people to begin and continue their own online journey in this new world of simpler, more intuitive, touchscreen technology. Is it time to stand back and challenge our assumptions both about what motivates people to start using technology and how we support them? My assumption is yes, whilst accepting that the traditional, informal adult learning will be with us for some time; not least because it will cost money to update community learning infrastructure, content and tools. It would be great if touchscreen devices shipped with a pre-loaded Basic Online Skills app, so do get in touch if you’re already developing one!
In the meantime, our great delivery partners are already taking strides to utilise touch potential and make it more accessible for everyone:
- Bbc.co.uk/webwise is stuffed with videos and mobile and phone guides
- Digital Unite has guides on smartphones and tablets
- UK online centres launched its first touchscreen course, Make Money Work this week. It’s just the beginning, with all courses expected to work with touchscreen devices by the end of February.
That’s enough from me for this week. We’re inviting regular Go ON UK guest bloggers and this week saw Matt Jameson Evans, co-founder of the Europe's biggest online health platform HealthUnlocked, writing about the potential for a paperless NHS. Get in touch with Emily@go-on.co.uk if you’re interested in supporting us by writing a guest blog too.