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Online engagement: still need convincing?
Thursday, 15th September 2011
I was listening to Gary McGrow speaking at a Scottish Health Council event and he had some interesting stories about the level of digital skills that young children have today. He started with something very non-digital - trading cards.
My kids (aged 7 and 8) love trading cards too. Yes, you buy and trade the cards but now you can join in online too. Moshi Monsters.com is an online gaming and simplified social networking site based on the trading cards. A recent Independent newspaper article quoted it as one of the fastest growing startups in Europe with over 50 million kids registered worldwide. They also calculate up to half of UK children (age 6-12) are registered members.
He also reminded us of the Glow Network - the world’s first national intranet for education and for delivering the national curriculum in Scotland. Digital accessibility and skills for all school age Scottish kids is happening now. The next generation will already have a remarkable set of digital skills in place and will definitely be the generation of hand-holders.
Anna McDermott, from ASK Bristol, was asking the audience to think about how do you let your content travel? They like crowdsourcing in Bristol to engage their communities in public sector conversations such as budgets, transport and urban planning. This is a good example of local democracy in action and a model that other sectors can learn from. Anna has also agreed to share more in the FUMSI Use practice area soon – so look out for that.
Lauren Currie, a recent FUMSI contributor, was also at the event talking about co-design and co-production in services. She reminded us that it is not just about the tools but the conversations and the quality of interaction. In my experience I believe that content does need context too. Lauren is a director of SNOOK and they are responsible for MyPolice, an online feedback tool for police and public engagement through conversation. This will be part of series of law enforcement and emergency services using social media coming to FUMSI Use soon too.
Marysia Morkis gave an honest account of the efforts of a National Health Service Board area (Lanarkshire) to be more community engaged using social media tools. As a communications officer she announced that Twitter's 140 characters was more liberating for the communication process – much fewer words and no need for a 10 person sign off. There are the usual challenges of board level uneasiness with new technology and feeling of a loss of control, and NHS (National Health Service) IT restrictions, but this was coupled with good statistics and positive quality comments. Management of content is a key challenge and they know that as an organisation they are behind the curve in terms of development.
Online engagement is starting very young now – it is normal to my kids. They live and accept the digital world. Some are further ahead of the curve than others as I saw at the Scottish Health Council event, but we can see where the pack is heading and there is no going back.
By Joanna Ptolomey
Joanna is a freelance information consultant and analyst. She started her career in information as a clinical librarian in the NHS before moving to global consultancy group DTZ. Prior to working in the information sector Joanna was a project planning engineer in the construction industry for 10 years.
She hopes to help people use information for assessing risk, making decisions and in governance. She is particularly interested in inequalities issues such as accessibility, information literacy and the information divide especially in the healthcare sector. She is the author of a chapter 'Digital divide and accessibility' in Government Information Management in the 21st Century. She is also the author of the book Taking charge of your career: a guide for library and information professionals.
You can follow Joanna on Twitter.
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