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Multilingual computing – 43

October 22, 2012 in Challenge

There is a proportion of the older population in the UK for who the barrier to the use of online information and communication is not just about the technology, but because their first language and their language of primary literacy is not English.

Fortunately the Web in recent years, and the Windows and Macintosh operating systems and apps, have embraced Unicode, and are therefore able to display information in e.g. Chinese, Hindi, Thai… for the left-to-right languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu there may be additional issues of application support, but Web-based apps do quite well here. But if people want to type in their own language (assuming they have typing literacy in the language), they may need appropriately configured keyboards, keyboard drivers/mappers, and appropriate software.

Worthy of investigation may be the following gaps in technical provision: access to fonts that are capable of displaying these languages on people’s computers – use by Web information providers of dynamically embedded digital font sets to get round the issue – availability of keyboard drivers and mutilingual apps – provision of these font, system and app resources on public access computers (e.g. in public libraries).

Password overload – 44

October 22, 2012 in Challenge

Most of us now suffer from having too many passwords and PINs to remember. For those with memory problems – which is particularly common amongst the elderly – this can inhibit digital access. In addition we also often have to provide other security data such as memorable place or date for example.

The challenge is to reduce the dependency on memory for using digital services. There are PC solutions that can manage your passwords for you – but if you forget the password to that app then you’re really stuck. This would also not be a viable solution for public access, such as in a library.

Home broadband tribulations – 46

October 21, 2012 in Challenge

To be able to connect to the Internet at reasonable speeds from one’s own home is still a great problem for many people. For a single person to pay for a personal home connection via e.g. BT or Virgin is not cheap. Many find the service to be unreliable, and configuring the system is beyond many people. Such is the complexity of a broadband WiFi router set-up that it is hard to know, when it goes wrong, just what is at fault; even experienced computer users can be driven up the metaphorical wall.

Bank and Post Office Closures – the growing crisis – 39

October 19, 2012 in Challenge

There may be a growing crisis caused by the increasing velocity of bank branches closing. This on top of the precarious nature of many local Post Offices. For people who have relied their entire lives on physical institutions and face to face communication for managing their affairs, there is a natural resistance to doing any of this online – assuming they have the facilities for getting online. There are few issues here, including cognitive capabilities, accessibility, mobility etc. It’s a bit naive of Gov or anyone else if they think that by lowering the barriers for digital access everyone will be connected. Some never will, and how will they be supported?

More voice-activated user interfaces – 30

October 18, 2012 in Challenge

One of the many challenges for using digital technology is manual dexterity. This is not an issue exclusive to an older demographic, since illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis or Osteoarthritis can affect people of any age. For some, using a keypad on a computer is difficult, and a smartphone is nigh on impossible. We should encourage vendors, service providers, product developers etc. to think more seriously about the next generation user interface, where voice activation comes as standard and not as an optional extra. Google has been doing some excellent work in this area and most of their interfaces include voice commands. Products such as Dragon Dictate are on the right lines, but still very expensive and require time and effort to use properly. The technology is available, but still seen as niche and often only deployed to ensure compliance with accessibility legislation. It needs to be made standard for any user interface.

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Personal technology needs refreshing – 29

October 17, 2012 in Challenge

If people later in life are less able to ‘refresh’ their technology, they may not be able to participate when online only works really well for those with the latest kit, operating systems and software. Public access computers may not be up to date either.

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Connect the social care market – 28

October 17, 2012 in Challenge

Those working with people in later life, and technology, do not appear to be using technology themselves substantially to share experience and learning.
The social care market is fragmented and there is a significant disconnect between innovators, developers, commissioners and care sector professionals.
Outside of the care sector there is little understanding of the complex funding streams and the growing number of people self-funding their care and support, which is a big market.
There is scope for connecting those working in social care, health, housing, with private care providers, voluntary and social enterprise sectors and the police

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New employment may require online skills – 26

October 17, 2012 in Challenge

More people these days are working past retirement age, and moving jobs in the process. Digital skills may be important right at the start of new employment: JobCentrePlus expect people to have email addresses.

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Universal credit requires online – 25

October 17, 2012 in Challenge

While much online activity is an optional extra in life, some is becoming a requirement for survival. Introduction of Universal Credit is going to mean that people will need to be online to manage their benefit entitlement.