Microvolunteering may just be the answer to the growing digital divide. The fact that volunteering online can provide a set of mutually beneficial advantages for both charities and those suffering from digital exclusion must not be overlooked.
The ‘Champion for Digital Inclusion Report 2009’ found that the over-65 category age group were most at risk from digital exclusion. One major factor to stimulate this segregation is that many older people demonstrated that they feel a lack of perceived opportunity or need to have a computer within their home. For example, 34% of this age group in 2008 said that an internet connection would provide no useful benefit for them. Given the rise of the ‘silver-surfer’, and a recent study which found that the over-60s are generally the most charitable; microvolunteering could be the key to providing that necessary sense of inspiration for the elderly to get online, by allowing the charitably-minded to act upon this within the comfort of their very own homes.
Further to this, computer training schemes for the digitally excluded, particularly those suffering from a disability, are often run by charities. It consequently seems only sensible to suggest that their programs include accessing and learning from useful websites that also promote and hold philanthropic aims and appeal to their users interests. AccessAdvisr is a strong example of how people with disabilities can gain valuable ICT skills and also make a difference to other people with access related issues, by helping to enter ease of access data onto the relevant geographical map so that these maps can then be used by others.
For those of the elderly who reside within care homes, high levels of inactivity are frequently documented. For such people, the use of online activity as a form of beneficial stimuli must not be overlooked. Research has demonstrated that increasing activity levels help reduce depression levels and even the amount of falls that they have. (Hancock et al, 2005) – Source: Northwest Dentia Centre
In this respect, helpfromhome.org has done all the legwork and compiled a comprehensive list of charitable websites, therefore allowing ease of access to people residing within such a situation. Their ‘Help From Seniors’ initiative has collated a valuable number of websites under relevant headings, for example the games page which helps to provide the benefits listed above, while at the same time promoting digital inclusion.
The benefits therefore of microvolunteering for the digitally excluded, in this case the over-65s, are innumerable. There is a pressing need to include this generation in our digital advances, and clear governmental provisos have been made to accommodate this. The actions of microvolunteering would help these excluded by allowing them to help causes they would not have the chance or capability to do normally, alongside acting as that all important gateway through which they can learn new computer skills and thus grow much more digitally aware in the process.
Author: Caroline Dennard – Help From Home Volunteer