Social inclusion through ICT - "Peter's Story"

Published on: 19/12/2007
Document
The purpose of this new and powerful method of considering the role of ICT in addressing inclusion and service transformation is to engage elected representatives, administration officials and citizens with a unique vision of how ICT can be used to enhance inclusion. The simple story telling technique demonstrates how if all the best elements of existing projects in the UK were introduced in one administration or for one citizen they could be helped by ICT, both in the back office and at the interface with a socially excluded person - Peter - to become more included in society.

Policy Context

The story is not a fanciful prediction of what might be possible with technology in the future. It portrays what could be achieved now if a wide variety of successful best practice initiatives already operating were joined together. The first pilot study focuses on Peter – a young person not in education, employment or training (NEET). The nine page story provides policy makers and citizens with clear evidence of what is possible now. By joining together a variety of initiatives it highlights the organisational and other changes that are required to enhance transformation both within an administration and across all tiers of government. For too long case studies have examined individual projects in isolation, frequently concentrating on the use of ICT at the interface with the citizen. The setting is the role of local public administration in addressing the needs of disadvantaged and disaffected individuals, in particular their responsibilities in respect of employment, crime, education, health, social support services and poverty reduction.

Description of target users and groups

The visioning study focuses on Peter, a young person not in education, employment or training (NEET). He is a drug taker and drug dealer. The visioning study draws together ICT initiatives that can support his journey back into society and eventually to obtain a job. In England there are approximately 206,000 NEET 16–18 year old (10,3% of their age group).

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The purpose of the visioning initiative is to engage elected representatives, administration officials and citizens with a unique vision of how ICT can be used to enhance inclusion and ensure no citizen is left behind. The creation of a unique insight into the way ICT can enhance the lives of one or more groups of people is presented as a compelling readable story. This visioning study (which is being developed into a video production for use at UK and European eGovernment events) focuses on one excluded group - a 16-18 year old drug taker who is not in education or training. It demonstrates how if all the best elements of existing projects were introduced in one administration they could be helped by ICT, both in the back office operations of local organisations and at the interface with workless people to resume employment and become more included in society. This vision highlights how a transformation in government could be achieved if all the best elements of UK projects using ICT to enhance social inclusion were introduced within one local administration or regional agency.

Technology solution

This vision draws on a variety initiatives that utilise many technologies and operate at the local and national scale. Some of the technologies are used in the back office for strategy development or data process (benefits applications). Others are used at the interface with the citizen (but the citizen does not need to be IT literate because they are operated by agents e.g. the benefits calculator). The technologies utilised include: digital video recorders, email, internet, laptop computers, MSN messenger, Nintendo DS and xBox.

Main results, benefits and impacts

The story joins together 15 ‘best practice’ initiatives from all over the UK that use digital technologies (the initiatives can be found in the appendix, each is cross-referenced by a number n the text). Peter is a small time reclusive drug dealer who is disengaged from society. The story recounts how the Local Strategic Partnership analysed local intelligence and worked with the local police, fire service , schools and other groups to target his street for special attention during school holidays to prevent anti-social behaviour. It goes on to tell how through his use of a number of other electronic services, all available though not in one place, he progresses socially and educationally to find fulfilment and employment. Many administrations are faced with a myriad of ICT projects and initiatives that they might introduce to enhance inclusion and transform their activities. Understanding the synergies and benefits of combining or integrating best practice projects is difficult. Comprehending the transformation opportunities and impact on inclusion provided by introducing several different projects simultaneously is problematical even for the most knowledgeable and experienced local or regional administration employee. Envisaging how operations, ‘joining up’ and service provision might change, both within the administration and with partners at the interface with citizens and in the back-office, creates an additional element of confusion for many observers. The vision has only recently been completed and dissemination activities are still at an early stage of development. Nonetheless the vision has been very positively received by organisations used in the vision and by others involved in trying to emphasise the benefits of ICT use to assist transformation and social inclusion. Activities have commenced to develop the written vision into a short video (or cartoon type approach) to enable a more dynamic and visual presentation of the advantages of joining-up the best ICT initiatives to address inclusion.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

This work builds on previous research on international case studies by De Montfort University and Professor Paul Foley, published by the UK Government alongside the report Inclusion through Innovation. A video is available, telling Peter's Story. Visit www.digiteam.org.uk and link to Peter's Story, or go directly to http://tinyurl.com/2f9kv2 (use your headphones).

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - Many elected representatives, administration officials and citizens do not fully understand how ICT can be used to enhance inclusion. One-off case studies are helpful but they fail to show the benefits that might arise if a wider range of initiatives were introduced seamlessly in a more co-ordinated way to address the needs of particular socially excluded groups. Our visionary approach, using initiatives that are successfully operating now, demonstrates the range of ways ICT can be used and the benefits that can be used from better co-ordinating a very wide range of initiatives using ICT to enhance inclusion. Sometimes you can see the moment when some of those who have used our vision finally ‘get it’. Lesson 2 - Many elected representatives, administration officials and citizens only recognise the role of ICT in overcoming the digital divide, the use of ICT by citizens or the use of technology at the interface with the citizen. ICT can be used in a great many other ways (back office, strategy development, for better service delivery, and better co-ordination between those providing (non ICT) services to socially excluded groups. Our visionary approach demonstrates a very wide range of technologies that are being used successfully now in many different activities to enhance inclusion. Lesson 3 - Explaining a new, innovative and what some first thought of as a wacky approach has been difficult. But when managers of initiatives understand what is being undertaken they become very positive. Patience in explaining the new approach and persistence in pushing the idea have reaped large dividends. Scope: National