At last week’s SupNorth we were talking about choosing the appropriate digital platform to communicate with your target audience (aka ‘the answer isn’t always an iphone app’).
But I raised the thought that trying to use digital channels at all for some audiences is still inappropriate. I’ve posted before about my 70-something technophobe Dad who is technically online but in reality uses me as a secretarial envoy to the internet. He gets quite miffed when Radio 4 merrily asks their listeners to text in or get extra content online as he has yet to master text messaging or anything computer related beyond the ‘on’ button.
I don’t believe this is down to him not being interested in mastering a whole new skill set or being too bloody minded to go with the flow – I truly believe that his generation will find it much, much harder than even the 60-something baby boomers to adopt and adapt to new technologies. The 70 and 80-somethings in the UK today grew up in an era when life was slower – and crucially life changed more slowly. Many 70 year olds today never had to use a computer at any point in their working lives.
The idea of a machine that more-or-less works most of the time so long as you do things that are basically counter-intuitive (click ‘start’ to switch off, hover over things to reveal hidden menus) and rely on invisible links to other temperamental systems is almost beyond comprehension for some of them.
Not everyone of course, there are lots of 70-somethings out there with the time, inclination and aptitude to master each new technology as it comes along. But there are those who wish that everything would stand still for a minute (or preferably go backwards) as not only do they lack the time and techno-joy to master the subject but they are so far behind they now have almost no hope of ever catching up.
I think Martha Lane Fox and her People’s Taskforce are a little naive in their attempt to get the whole nation online. Some of our older citizens are never going to be able to make that jump. So we have to either continue to provide offline access to online services, or we have to offer the kind of secretarial technology translation services I provide to my Dad on a national level.