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Community ICT Provision & Learning September 15, 2008

Posted by Kevupnorth in Uncategorized.
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Last week I attended some interesting seminar at the ALT-C conference in Leeds.

One of the papers presented was around the subject of engaging people from deprived communities in higher education.  Interestingly, this research looked specifically at the barriers in relation to technology. The bits that stood out, as far as I was concerned, were not the financial limitations but the provision available for those with financial limitations.

Skills were an issue for some, but for many it wasn’t an issue of skills but of provision. It wasn’t just equipment that couldn’t be afforded.  Lines and connections were cut off if not paid, even if they were vital to an individual’s course.

Community provision simply wasn’t up to the job. Social networking and MUVEs were not available in most public locations, and email attachments proved a massive problem too, limiting an individuals ability to learn, exchange and network.

Interestingly, research from another workshop by George Roberts didn’t indicate problems with provision – but this was in a centre that had a self-policing open internet policy, where the issues were instead around enforced progression routes and the hidden agendas of upskilling and accreditation.

I think this research demonstrates three important points.

Firstly, that our worries about skills are only a small part of the picture.

Secondly the importance of local authorities looking at community ICT provision.  It isn’t just about ticking inclusion boxes.  It’s a matter of life or no life for some people.  It isn’t just about having computers in public places either.  It’s about having access to the tools available and staff that can support you in accessing them.

Thirdly, it clearly demonstrates Charlie Leadbeater’s point (from a previous post) about learning being central to the public services 2.0 agenda.

Local Government needs to pay close attention to its adult learning provision as a way of looking at the wider community strategy. It’s adult learning provision in turn needs to embrace technology efficiently and quickly. In terms of the provision, the result could be relatively simple. The risk that bans social networking and MUVEs needs to be re-examined. What about the risk of a community that can’t engage or, worse still, can’t learn?

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