On the 14 February - Library Lovers Day - I had the pleasure of presenting at the Australian Libraries and Information Association (ALIA) Conference Information Online 2019. It was a great opportunity to share our global approach to digital inclusion with a focus on work that is happening in libraries across Australia, the UK and Kenya.
Good Things Foundation is a social change charity, and our vision is a world where everyone can benefit from digital. In the UK, we’ve already supported 2.5 million people to improve their digital skills, and as a group, we’re aiming to reach 3 million by 2020.
We established our office in Sydney in August 2017, and since then we have grown a national network of over 2,100 organisations who are supporting their communities to become digitally included. We’ve begun by working with older people, but we don’t believe anyone should be left behind as we know that there are many other groups of people who are missing out.
Although many of you may know of our work here in Australia and in the UK, what you may not know is that for over a year we have also been working on a project in Kenya. We are funding a pilot with the Kenyan National Library Service to test how digital inclusion can be embedded within libraries across the country.
Wherever we operate, our aim is to help people become digitally able, equal and active, and for them to be healthier, happier and better off. Our ambition is global, because there are 3.8 million people across the world who don’t use the internet - and these people are generally poorer, less educated and less resilient.
Wherever we work, libraries play a big role in supporting people to learn new digital skills. So, speaking at the National ALIA conference gave me the opportunity to work with my international colleagues to consider and compare digital inclusion work in libraries across the three countries.
In Australia, there are 2.5 million people who lack the digital skills they need as a result of three key areas identified by the Australian Digital Inclusion Index: access, affordability and ability. Our focus at Good Things Foundation is on supporting people to have the ability, the skills and confidence to engage actively in the digital world. We know that here in Australia there are other programs that have been supporting people to learn digital skills, like Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association and Tech Savvy Seniors. And we know that many libraries have been involved in this work. So, it’s not surprising that libraries make up over 20% of the Be Connected Network, with over 480 libraries supporting older Australians to improve their digital skills. For example, libraries like Kingston Library are using innovative approaches to engage people in using technology for the first time.
Others, like Derrinallum Library, are using the opportunity to upskill their own staff and volunteers as well as library visitors.