This morning has made the whole Our Digital Planet experience worthwhile for me. The first customer into the unit was Ron, who happily told us he was 84 and had on interest in the internet at all. But he was interested in photography, and had been looking at some of the photos in the exhibition. So, Rachael from Nominet Trust took him on a tour of the images. Ron came back into the Internet Station enthusing about the big image of old Bristol on the side of the unit, and reminiscing about the trams in Croydon where he used to live. So, Rachael showed him some online images of Croydon trams. Ron was pretty amazed about how easy it was to find such things, and, within minutes he was asking us to look for some pictures of himself dancing in a nightclub, which he had been told were on Facebook. We didn’t manage to find them. but we did find images of some of the places where he was due to go on holiday and trip advisor ratings for them, which he found fascinating. Ron’s a photographer and a painter, and, when he realised that he could upload photos and images of his paintings, he left bubbling with enthusiasm and promising to come back.
John Popham is working for us and Nominet Trust in Bristol for the next couple of weeks. He popped this up on his blog last night.
Today was my first day as Internet Station Manager on Nominet Trust’s Our Digital Planet Exhibition. Our Digital Planet is a touring exhibition highlighting the benefits of the internet, and the Internet Station is an portacabin where people whose interest in the internet is stimulated can come to learn more about any aspect they are unsure of. The estimable Lloyd Davis has already done a stint in the role when the Exhibition was on Brighton seafront, and he will also be guiding it in Cardiff, while I will be back in Liverpool and Glasgow. In all this, we are working with the amazing Nick Booth, and his team at Podnosh Ltd.
In truth, it was a fairly slow day, a useful gentle introduction for me to the initiative, and I was fortunate to be working alongside Kieron Kirkland and Vicki Hearn from the Trust who were able to show me the ropes. A Monday in the middle of a shopping centre, was probably always going to be a quiet day. But, already some interesting issues are starting to emerge. This is true Digital Inclusion activity. Some of the people who approached us had very little knowledge of the internet at all. Nearly all were frightened, about giving away too much information about themselves, about losing money to scams, and about breaking something. They faced multiple barriers to getting online, but a common factor was fear engendered by media scare stories.
It was evident as well, that quite a few of the people who came along had literacy problems. It amazes me that many people who promote the digital inclusion agenda fail to take into account that a fairly high degree of literacy is needed to use the internet, and that, many who don’t go online avoid it for precisely that reason. But, there were a variety of reasons for being there, and not all were total beginners; including the young woman living in a hostel who came in to look at photos of her son on Facebook because there is only one, very slow, computer in her hostel. There was the man who wanted to know how to “unfriend” someone who had been sending him threatening messages on Facebook. And there was the man who wanted to know how to search for cheap coach fares to Blackpool, before going to challenge the ticket sellers at the Bus Station to beat the online price.
One of the interesting queries was from the young woman who came in under the mistaken impression that we were selling broadband packages. She explained that she had no internet connection at home because her previous supplier had been too expensive. “I’m not paying that for broadband,” she said; “that’s a holiday”. I helped her search for a cheaper supplier. Which shows up the great irony. How do you search for the best broadband package when you don’t have access to the internet to do so?