Title: The role of a social context for ICT learning and support in reducing digital inequalities for older ICT users

Authors: Leela Damodaran; Jatinder Sandhu

Addresses: Loughborough University, Epinal Way, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK ' Division of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Goldsmith Street, Nottingham, NG1 5LT, UK

Abstract: This paper examines the key role of formal and informal social support in reducing digital inequalities by enabling the digital participation of older people. It is based primarily on research conducted on the Sustaining IT use by older people to promote autonomy and independence (Sus-IT) project in the UK over a four-year period working with over 1,000 older people using mixed research methods within a participative framework. It is further informed by other studies. The rich, multi-faceted evidence reveals on the one hand the extensive learning and support needs and requirements of older users of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and, on the other, the dearth of reliable and ongoing support provision. ICT learning and support in the UK relies primarily on the goodwill of friends and family and on the availability of staff and volunteers in community venues, such as public libraries. Arrangements are often ad hoc and variable in quality and reliability. In a facilitated workshop, the learning and ICT support needs of older people and their preferred forms of provision were documented and deliberated. This generated a clear set of user requirements. To meet these requirements a proposition for community-based ICT support provision has been developed and refined. The paper concludes with consideration of this proposition which offers a powerful way to reduce the widespread digital inequalities among older people.

Keywords: digital inclusion; digital inequality; older people; social support; ICT support; ICT learning; social context; older users; ICT users; digital participation; UK; United Kingdom; information and communications technology; information technology; elderly; senior citizens.

DOI: 10.1504/IJLT.2016.077520

International Journal of Learning Technology, 2016 Vol.11 No.2, pp.156 - 175

Received: 08 May 2021
Accepted: 12 May 2021

Published online: 04 Jul 2016 *

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