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Putting People First

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Posts in category 'Digital divide'

11 January 2006

Digital interactive television for older people [BBC]

Digitaltv_203
The University of Dundee’s Department of Applied Computing is looking for people who accept the potential advantages of new technology but whose experience is more pain than pleasure.

It wants to explore how fear of change can be reduced by making things such as digital television much simpler to use.

One major change that most people will find difficult to avoid is the switch off of the analogue TV signal which will happen, region by region, between 2008 and 2012.

An important implication of the switch to digital was that televisions would become much more like computers. For some that would mean that using their television would become much more complicated.

The research project will begin in early 2006 and last until next year.

Read full story
Read research project summary
Read research area summary

6 January 2006

RSA website on inclusive design

Inclusive_design
Inclusive design is about ensuring that environments, products, services and interfaces work for people of all ages and abilities. Many people are interested in this, but there is no ready source of information, methods, tools and examples to help them achieve it. This website aims to plug that gap by bringing together new and existing information and making it accessible via a single user-friendly interface.

The website is aimed at design students and their tutors, professional designers, design managers and policy makers. It has been developed to introduce newcomers to key concepts, examples and design/research methods, and to support practitioners in gathering together relevant information to build up their own collection of tools and techniques.

20 December 2005

Mobile phones and other technology can narrow social divides [Usability News]

Social_exclusion
A challenge to the traditional view that new technology will widen inequality in the future comes from the UK Government’s Social Exclusion Unit. The new report shows how technology is already improving life chances and public service delivery, and is being embraced by those deemed to be ‘excluded groups’. Part of the success is coming from the use of mobile phones rather than computers.

For instance, mobile phones are being used by homeless people to avoid the problems of not having a permanent address, leaving a mobile number on job applications. Medical results can be texted to the patient without someone else answering the phone. Elderly folk are playing chess with friends across the world. The report Inclusion Through innovation: Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies shows other examples of how modern technology can improve public service take-up, reconnect the isolated and provide a lifeline for those groups on the margins.

The report, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, argues that ‘excluded’ people already use technology extensively and that we need to build on this enthusiasm.

Read full story

7 December 2005

Voicing the visual [Metropolis Magazine]

Voiceover
With the help of screen-readers–programs that speak the text on the monitor–and magnifying and contrast-enhancing features, the approximately 260,000 blind and 10 million vision-impaired people in the United States have a way to access the Internet, which has become critical in obtaining goods and services without having to navigate the physical world.

This spring–21 years after the Mac’s debut–Apple presented VoiceOver, an integrated screen reader that promises to shift expectations for how nonsighted users interact with a computer. Amid the hubbub surrounding the release of Tiger, the current version of Mac’s operating system, few in the press noted its existence–but in the accessibility world it was huge.

While the leading Windows screen-reading programs, such as JAWS, cost about $900, Apple began building a full-fledged reader into the operating system. VoiceOver refuses to abandon the graphical interface. Instead of stripping the text from its spatial situation, the program suggests how it looks on the screen by acknowledging the arrangement of windows and frames, and the difference between menus and content.

Read full story

6 December 2005

EU strategy on improving the communication with its citizens

I2010_eeurope_logo
About two months ago, I complained in this blog about the fact that i2010, the EU’s website on digital inclusion and participation, was about the opposite of accessibility and inclusivity.

I sent the same message to the cabinet of the EU Commissioner in charge of Institutional Relations and Communications Strategy and yesterday I received a very thoughtful and to-the-point answer. I have nothing but praise for such willingness to provide personalised feedback to issues raised by EU citizens.

In the end, this approach will help raise the EU’s public profile, because people will share such positive experiences. I sincerely wish this EU team all the best in improving their communications and implement standardised guidelines.

The i2010 website has unfortunately not changed at all and remains an examples of how not be accessible and inclusive.

Below is the email from Rolf Annerberg, Head of Cabinet of Vice-President Margot Wallström, that I post here with his permission:

Dear Mr. Vanderbeeken,

Thank you for your message that you emailed to us on the 5th November.

I fully agree with you that much needs to be done to improve the European Union’s institutional communication with citizens.

Indeed the awareness that EU communication with citizens needs to be improved led the Barroso Commission to tackle this issue since it came into office a year ago and for the first time the Commission has elected a Vice President, Margot Wallström, to be responsible inter alia, for Communication.

On her initiative the Commission adopted on 20th July last an Action Plan on improving communicating Europe. You will find the full text of this action plan (cf. document SEC(2005)985) on EUROPA, the official website of the EU institutions, at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/press_communication/index_en.htm).

This action plan lists some 50 concrete measures which, based on three major principles: listening, communicating and connecting with citizens by “going local”, are currently being taken.

The overall aim of the Action Plan is to bring about a new, more citizen-oriented approach to communication throughout all Commission departments and to make sure that communication on the intentions of the Commission is fully integrated from the very start of the legislative process and throughout other Commission actions. And amongst the various actions listed in the Plan you will see the Commission’s commitment to communicate using a more user friendly language.

With regard to your comments on brand and communications consistency, I agree that this is an important challenge. In this context, standardised guidelines for internet communication have been established. These rules, that are currently being updated, are incorporated in what we call the Information Providers’ Guide (IPG).

Although we still have a long way to go, I am confident that, with the step-by-step approach so characteristic for European integration, we will be able to improve communications with citizens, also and not in the least thanks to the very useful and constructive feedback from people like yourself.

Yours sincerely,
Rolf Annerberg

8 November 2005

MIT’s Fab Labs unlocking imagination around the world [CNN]

Fab_lab
MIT has established seven so-called Fabrication Labs in places as distant as Norway and Ghana. Each lab has tool sets that, costing about $25,000, would be out of the reach of most fledgling inventors.

Advocates of such “Fab Labs” think they have the potential to vastly expand the creative powers of tinkerers and usher in a revolution in do-it-yourself design and manufacturing that can mpower even the smallest of communities.

“If you give people access to means to solve their own problems, it touches something very, very deep,” said Neil Gershenfeld, an MIT physicist and computer scientist whose is among the movement’s chief proponents. “Somehow it goes back to nest-building, or mastering your own environment.

Read full story

6 November 2005

Italy aggressively pursues Wi-Fi and WiMAX

Wifi_antenna
Under new policies and initiatives from its Ministry of Communications, Italy is turning to Wi-Fi and WiMAX to make broadband Internet access more universally available throughout the country.

On October 4th, the Minister for Communications, Mario Landolfi, issued a new decree which extended the availability of Wi-Fi — already being used in airports, train stations, shopping centers and city parks — to the whole country. […]

”About 11 million Italians live in small towns and many of them do not have access to broadband because the investment required would not be economically viable for large companies,” said Landolfi at the press conference where the decree was announced. “This measure enables any providers, if they so wish, to reach customers who would otherwise be excluded.”

Read full story

6 November 2005

Bruce Nussbaum on businesses co-creating products and services with consumers in developing countries

Design_about
Bruce Nussbaum, who writes a column on innovation and design for Business Week, reflects today on the IDSA/HP Design About on BOP–the bottom of the pyramid.

“Gary Elliot, the vice president of brand marketing for HP, talked about “Me-ism” in the US, the idea that form follows me today, that “me” is the center of the universe and companies have to work within that cultural context to success. Companies therefore have to partner with millions of “me-customers” to co-create products and services.

But the conference showed that companies must do the same thing in the “we-cultures” of India and the bottom of the pyramid countries. For political, economic and cultural reasons, they have to partner up with their customers to generate new products and services to sell to and with them. In fact, Patrick Whitney of the Institute of Design discussed how in Indian villages, consumers are invariably producers, that every household is invariably an entrepreneur, how consumer goods are used to produce things for sale. […]

The high tech world of the web and the low-tech world of the village are somehow coming together to offer up a new vision for innovation, design and society in general.”

Read full story

Update: Bruce Nussbaum had meanwhile some nice words to say about this blog. Thanks, Bruce.

19 October 2005

Proceedings of EU workshop on digital inclusion and participation

I2010_eeurope_logo
The Workshop on Digital Inclusion and Participation in Brussels on 23 September 2005 aimed at setting the scene for the EU’s i2010 ambitions: an inclusive information society that provides high quality public services and promotes quality of life. It involved representatives from civil society, industry, academia, EU Member States and the EU Commission.

The proceedings are now available online.

Download presentations

(The i2010 website, developed by the EU directorate general for Information Society and Media to promote inclusion, is unfortunately just about the opposite of accessibility and inclusivity. Why can’t the EU not learn lessons from the failed referendums this year? Why not communicate in a language that is people-centred rather than presenting a homepage where the introduction is in a series of downloads and the rest of the text is focused on a mysterious “Communication” which the EU has prepared? The EU vice-president Margot Wallstrom, who is since last year responsible for institutional relations and communications, should perhaps develop some basic EU communications standards. They are urgently needed.)

19 October 2005

The upgraded digital divide [Knowledge@Wharton]

Upgraded_digital_divide
The upgraded digital divide: are we developing new technologies faster than consumers can use them?

TiVos and Treos and BlackBerrys. Wi-Fi and HDTV and plasma screens. Picture phones, digital cameras, iPods and now iPod cell phones. Complexity among consumer technology products has never been greater — a good thing if the complexity means product improvement.

But Wharton experts say new bells and whistles pose challenges to businesses and consumers alike. Complexity — along with choice — can have a big impact on how firms make and market new and improved gizmos, and on the decision processes of the people expected to buy them.

Are we at a point, one commentator asks, where the next innovation will actually be the idea that ease of use is the most compelling feature of tech products?

Read full story

(via Usability News)

18 October 2005

Proceedings international conference on inclusive design

Include_2005
As companies seek a better understanding of their customers, designers explore more user-centred methods and educators introduce social issues into the curriculum, the time is right for inclusive design.

That was the encouraging message to emerge from the third Include conference held at the Royal College of Art, 5-8 April 2005, which was attended by 170 delegates from 19 different countries (up from 14 in 2003).

In paper sessions, poster presentations, workshops, panel discussions and design stories, the mood was clear: business, the design profession and academia are all gearing up to create a more inclusive future in which empathy with users of all ages and abilities holds the key to commercial success and social equity.

Proceedings website
Download proceedings (pdf, 1.1 mb, 132 pages)

(via CPH127)

17 October 2005

Cell phones reshaping Africa [CNN]

Storyafricacellularap
Cell phones made up 74.6 percent of all African phone subscriptions last year, says the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union. Cell phone subscriptions jumped 67 percent south of the Sahara in 2004, compared with 10 percent in cell-phone-saturated Western Europe, according to Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese who chairs Celtel, a leading African provider.

An industry that barely existed 10 years ago is now worth $25 billion, he says. Prepaid air minutes are the preferred means of usage and have created their own $2 billion-a-year industry of small-time vendors, the Celtel chief says. Air minutes have even become a form of currency, transactable from phone to phone by text message, he says.

Read full story

8 September 2005

Torinodigitalworld: funding cooperation to bridge the digital divide

Todigitalworld
As part of Turin’s Olympic Truce activites, the city’s government bodies are promoting an international meeting on 19-20 September 2005 to discuss cooperation, best practices and financial tools to narrow the “digital divide” as a guarantee for ensuring just and fair development and the elimination of poverty.
7 September 2005

HP research on emerging economies

Img_affordable
The HP research on Innovation for Emerging Economies is done from Bangalore, India, where they tackle such issues as the access divide, the communications divide, the need for contextual design, the language divide and the lack of sustainable business ecologies that affect the effective spread of information technology.
4 September 2005

Why technology misses the masses

Phones_afp_203
The latest MORI research into consumer technology, commissioned by European technology public relations consultancy Hotwire, has concluded that consumer technologies will not reach their full market potential until vendors can successfully engage with women and the over 45s.

According to an expert panel made up of leading industry commentators to discuss the findings, vendors must focus on product design and ease of use, and not over complicate their offerings with unnecessary features.

Read full story

(via BBC)

25 August 2005

Cellphones catapult rural Africa to 21st century [The New York Times]

Cell_africa
Africa is the world’s fastest-growing cellphone market, a boom that has taken the industry by surprise.

From 1999 through 2004, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent. South Africa, the continent’s richest nation, accounted for one-fifth of that growth.

Asia, the next fastest-expanding market, grew by an annual average of just 34 percent in that period.

Read full story

Related: Guardian story (14 September 2005)

12 August 2005

DoCoMo designs phones for the elderly

Docomo_elderly
This month, NTT DoCoMo, Inc. will release a mobile phone able to slow down speakers’ voice speed. The key targeted users are the elderly, reveals Tech-on.

The speed converter technology slows down speakers’ voice speed up to 0.7x, so the listener can feel like that the speakers’ dialogue goes slowly. The technology does not slow down the voice part, but shortens the part without sound between phrases. When a time lag between the original voice and the converted voice exceeds one second, the function automatically stops.

DoCoMo also prepared a main menu screen exclusively designed for the handset. By reducing the number of menu items as well as using relatively large icons, screen operation became easier than before.

Other functions include a system to start an emergency alarm of about 80 dB and a pedometer.

(via Engadget | Textually.org| Regine of We Make Money Not Art)