Not-Equal engaged with 21 representatives of NotEqual non-academic members organisations to find out how they were using technology to work with their constituencies and what issues they were facing during COVID-19.
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to use digital technology to deliver their services or to stay connected. The crisis also mobilised community solidarity and organising everywhere, some of which was enabled by digital technology. The switch to using digital technology to support communities was not a smooth transition for all.
In this context, between 21 April and 19 May 2020 Not-Equal engaged with 21 representatives of NotEqual non-academic members organisations – mainly community and voluntary groups – to find out how they were using technology to work with their constituencies and what issues they were facing as they tried to continue to work with the communities they support during lockdown. Conversations were carried out via Zoom or email exchanges, although in some cases respondents used a Google form set up for this purpose.
Summary of report
Some respondents highlighted that the provision of their services via digital technology enabled engagement and inclusion of new service users. This was countered by the disappearance of other long-standing service users.
Here issues of digital inequities and exclusion (access to hardware, wifi, data as well as skills and language barriers) where raised as the principal reasons for the disappearance of some beneficiaries.
Other respondents highlighted that some services demanded their redesign in order to accommodate a digital offer and lacking capacity and knowledge delivery halted. The use of digital technology in some cases translated in a smoother and more effective service provision for some beneficiaries. It also sparked additional concerns in relation to digital wellbeing and safety. The challenges of meeting expectations and maintaining a digital offer post-Covid-19.
Next Steps and Future actions
Based on these conversations, Not-Equal is proposing the following responses, that might be useful and supportive to the ongoing work, challenges and opportunities outlined above.
Digital Wellbeing pack
A pack offering guidance & resources to support wellbeing when using digital technology. This pack will comprise of existing resources, which we will collate, including guidance on e-safety and existing digital tools to support digital wellbeing.
A participatory review of Digital Skills and Training Programmes
A series of workshops designed to foster a participatory evaluation of past and current training programmes in IT in order to support sharing of best and worst practices; the shared insights from these workshops aims to support the development of present and future IT skills training.
Diving into the Digital delivery of Services
Workshops to support a participatory exploration of the concrete challenges and ethical dilemmas that the sudden digitalisation of services brought about.