Facilitator: Aisling Lennon, Smart Dublin
Reaching people with disabilities, chronic conditions and older people who are not online is a priority as they may be at greatest risk at this time.
The challenge posed has a number of different aspects:
- Access to Technology: People may lack access to technology including smart phones, tablets, smart speakers, chrome casts
- Internet Access: They may not have internet access: this can be because they do not usually use technology, but it may also because of cost or geographical availability of broadband.
- Digital Skills: They may not have the digital skills, and supports they need to get on line at this time due to cocooning, self-isolating or social distancing.
Some potential ways forward were identified during the discussion including the following:
- The potential to engage with technology companies to access smart phones and tablets was identified as an effective way of ensuring that people get access to up to date technology.
- Running a public campaign to encourage the public to look at what technology they have that works and is not in use and consider donating or passing it on to people who could use it. (This is already being done by hospitals to support patients who cannot have visitors).
Some innovative community led suggestions for increasing internet access included:
- Community Wi-Fi sharing: where local communities could be encouraged to share their wi-fi connection with neighbours without internet access or the means to get it.
- It may also be possible to develop mesh networks across home Wi-Fi routers in urban areas.
- Increasing digital skills amongst people with disabilities and older people:
- Many service providers are already adapting fast to providing IT supports to get people using their services online, including basic supports around getting online and video conferencing. There is an opportunity for learning here across service providers, as well as training, to support shared learning and avoid duplication of effort.
- The potential to harness smart home technology and voice activated devices to allow remote support is worth looking at in terms of how they can keep people safe in their homes at this time. Examples include Amazon Echo and Google Home.
- Could they also be harnessed for pushing out apps and information?
- Also discussed was the idea of using launchers (alternative user interface for Android devices) to simplify the interface for people unused to technology.
- It may also be possible to manage the roll out of standardised devices to people, using an MDM (Mobile Device Management Software) such as Meraki.
- The idea of repurposing call centres currently closed to provide remote support for people using AT was also suggested.
- It was also recognised that for some, basic information and existing communication channels may also work best: these include leaflet drops, broadcast media and the Community Response Frameworks being rolled out by Local Authorities.