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E20 on Eastenders: your comments

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 12:06 UK time, Thursday, 14 January 2010

In comments on my E20 blog post Boilerplated asks,

'why are you still peddling the myth that 'old fogies' can't cope with computers?'

I agree with rexel: the BBC is not perpetuating the myth that older people can't cope with computers - we are trying to do the exact opposite.

True many parents and grandparents were using computers in the work-place before anyone thought about having "a computer in every home". And yes it's true - some younger people might not have access to a PC in their home.

We have a commitment to digital inclusion (it's actually part of the BBC's charter) and to reach audiences who do not have access to the internet. We point audiences to where they can get access to the internet and where to get help in developing their online skills.

We run a number of initiatives to this end and target all sections of the population not yet online, currently over 10 million adults. Just over half (54%) of those are aged 65 or over. And whilst it's true to say that not all young people have broadband access, the proportion who don't have access to broadband is much smaller in younger age groups (14% of 15 to 34 year olds). These age groups also have a higher tendency to connect to the internet via mobile phone.

Our research has shown that mentoring and help from friends and families is one of the most effective ways to help online adopters. They can make a real difference to developing online skills and boosting confidence for those new to computers and the internet and it's something I will be working on with Martha Lane Fox and Race Online

You can see an existing scheme run by UK Online Centres here.

Seetha Kumar is Controller BBC Online and the BBC's Online Access Champion.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "the BBC is not perpetuating the myth that older people can't cope with computers - we are trying to do the exact opposite."

    Sorry but you are, other wise you would not make comment such as "For producer Deborah Sathe, E20 is also an opportunity for young people to show the older generations in their family how modern technology works.", what the hell is that if not grossly patronizing...

    "We have a commitment to digital inclusion (it's actually part of the BBC's charter) and to reach audiences who do not have access to the internet. We point audiences to where they can get access to the internet and where to get help in developing their online skills."

    Would you not agree that, with just about all local libraries and local colleges now offering computer/internet access/education to those without either computer or net access now means that the vast majority of those still without such access are those who simply do not want, for what ever reason, such access?

    Anyway, what makes you or Deborah Sathe think that E20 will do anything to encourage the 'older person' to access the net, now had the BBC decided to offer (and here I'm not being exclusive of other genres) new productions of cultural classics - even extra editions of Gardeners' World - as an on-line programme I could perhaps see where you're coming from, many of the audiences you say that you have a duty to 'reach' are not going to be the slightest bit interested in such a programme as E20 and are more likely just to leave the 'younger person' to 'it' rather than sit there being educated in "how modern technology works" (should they need to be), preferring to go off and do something else around the house or garden, or just do the washing up... Sorry Seetha (and Deborah) but I'm not entirely convinced that you really understand what the older person wants or needs in this respect!

    "the BBC's Online Access Champion."

    More Politically Correct mumbo-jumbo from the BBC...

  • Comment number 2.

    I do not wish to get into some sort of debate with you because it seems you have decided your stance and have no intention of being convinced otherwise but here goes.....
    "Sorry but you are, other wise you would not make comment such as "For producer Deborah Sathe, E20 is also an opportunity for young people to show the older generations in their family how modern technology works.", what the hell is that if not grossly patronizing..."
    If you want to look for support for your argument then yes, you can say that is a "patronizing" statement, equally it can relate to what I talked about in the last blog. There is plenty of research that shows older people in general are more reluctant to access the internet than their younger counterparts for various reasons, some of which I mentioned previously. Younger family members encouraging/helping them to use the internet to overcome the reluctances that they may have is a proven way to deal with it.
    "the vast majority of those still without such access are those who simply do not want, for what ever reason, such access?"
    The issue is not just about the ability to access the internet though. The majority, if not all people, now have access to computers and the internet as well as relevant courses on using it but for many the "fear" (for want of a better word) of the new fangled technology they have never worked with or been educated on overrides the opportunities to use it. There is an argument for just leaving them to it but in my opinion the increasing implications to both indiduals and society of the "Digital Divide" means efforts do need to be made to help people overcome these obstacles.
    I will give one obvious example of the benefits of the internet; products and services such as insurance can be found online at a far cheaper price than through more traditional methods. It is often the people who would benefit from things such as the above the most who are unaware of them - this includes many older people but can be extended to low income families, disabled people etc... This is why people including many from the older generation need to be made aware through projects such as Eastenders E20.

    Now I more than accept that it is not the same for everyone and clearly it is not a problem you have encountered but it is a problem for others. I have experience of this matter so can assure you it does exist.
    "...are not going to be the slightest bit interested in such a programme as E20"
    I do agree with you on this, E20 isn't exactly a programme for older people (although many older people watch Eastenders so who knows...)and the things you mention are some better alternatives for this particular issue. However, it doesnt seem the primary purpose of E20 was ever to deal with this issue and we are somewhat guilty of exagerating it. I still strongly disagree with you that the BBC is perpetuating the myth and as I said in my first post, feel you are being too unfair on the people involved, it is an important issue and only right for the nation's main public service broadcaster to help deal with it.

  • Comment number 3.

    #2. At 5:46pm on 14 Jan 2010, rexel wrote:

    "There is plenty of research that shows older people in general are more reluctant to access the internet than their younger counterparts for various reasons"

    I think you meant:

    'There is plenty of research that shows...SOME...older people are more reluctant to access the internet than their younger counterparts for various reasons'

    I think you made my point about making patronising comments very nicely...

    It's also true that many younger people are reluctant to access the internet, certainly in certain ways, these young people could be taught a tick or two from many an "old fogie"! :-)

    There really does seem to be an element of generalised ageism at work here, the young can, the old(er) person can't. Has it never occurred to some within the BBC that many of the adult generation who first 'played' with the BBC Micro or Sinclair ZX80 in the late '70s and early '80s are not going to be that far off the state retirement age and certainly could have taken early retirement, those who were using IBM terminals and main frames in the mid '70s will have almost certainly retired, all these people are probably far better placed to teach the 'reluctant older person' than a young(er) person who has totally different computing/internet needs to them - how many young people bother with email (yes they (should) know what e-mails are and how to send them but do they know how to write a proper e-mail rather than a cross between a text message and an e-mail and thus the 'reluctant older person' obtains the impression that e-mail is much like "Txtng - no wht I mean M8" (and yes, that was my turn to be slightly patronising, I'm fully aware that many young[er] people can write very good e-mails when they are expected to).

    "Now I more than accept that it is not the same for everyone and clearly it is not a problem you have encountered but it is a problem for others. I have experience of this matter so can assure you it does exist."

    If you have the experience you say you have you will also know and accept that all age groups have such problems, not just "older people".

    "However, it doesnt seem the primary purpose of E20 was ever to deal with this issue and we are somewhat guilty of exagerating it."

    Declaration of interest time?...

  • Comment number 4.

    Like I said Boilerplated, I don't wish to start a pointless debate so this will probably be my final post on the matter.

    I felt I made it very clear throughout the last post and especially at the end that I am speaking generally (notice I put "in general" in the first sentence you quoted). So I am agreeing with you that many older people are experienced with computers. The reason I first disagreed with you is that you seemed to suggest that every older person knows how to use a computer, I'm not sure if I still disagree with you as it seems we are more or less saying the same thing now, just from different angles.

    I also agreed with you that E20 isn't the best way of teaching the 'reluctant older users' as I phrased it but the reason I focused on young people helping older people is because that is what the original blog talked about. By the way I am not trying to be insulting when I say old(er) it is just a quicker way of identify the people I am referring to than creating specific age categories. I hope you can see in my last post that I was more interested in arguing that there is a problem for some older people which as I said above, is what I initially disagreed with you about. Of course younger family members aren't the only ones who can help the people in question and like last time, I agree with your alternative suggestions of how to help them.

    As for the "we" at the end of my post I meant me and you in that we seem to have created an argument based on something that was only part of the first blog and never actually said that old people cannot/should not use the internet. I am certainly not some sort of spy for the BBC, if I was then I wouldn't have said a lot that I have said, but I do think their intentions in helping older inexperinced users should not be criticised.

    To clarify, there are older people who do not realise the benefits of the internet and/or don't believe they would be able to use it. This is certainly not the case for everyone but it is for many. If you are still saying the BBC is perpetuating the myth that old people cannot and should not use the internet then I still disagree and like you, my stance won't be changed. I actually think we more or less agree though, these inexperienced users do exist and it is right that various methods are used to help them, younger family members being just one example as often (at least in my community) they have grown up with computers where as their older relatives have had less exposure to them.

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