Don’t forget the basics

​Sometimes it feels like I spend most of my time on a train, just connected to world by my phone & tablet.

(Photo: Paul Webster)

Fortunately that’s not true and anyway there is only so much Railway Station Tea even I can take! My travels aren't just about (a) comparing the ‘comfort’ of various train seats or (b) the mysteries of the station departure boards, although exploring the closest pub to each station for a swift pint whilst waiting for (b) and avoiding (a) does sometimes feature! However that would be an entirely different blog ...

I really appreciate that in my role on the Lasa Connecting Care project I get to meet and to discuss use of technology with a wide range of frontline charity sector social care providers. Many are using technology very well within a learning disability community or to care for older people. But there is something in particular I've recently noticed which has prompted this blogpost, and I think points to a bigger topic we're not considering in our relationship with technology.

It’s December 2014, but staff and managers I meet in many smaller charities seem to struggle with the basic concepts around technology that we often assume are commonplace. For example, I'm asked, “What happens to my files when I copy them to The Cloud?”, or “What even *is* The Cloud?”; or “How should I back up my data effectively?”. I get asked about ways to extend the reach of Wireless networks in care homes and even if a combination of Access and Excel is the best way to organise the organisation’s database....

The 'digital industry' is good at developing initiatives and offering programmes to either tackle the issue of getting people on-line for the first time and saving money with their bills and shopping or that show older people how to use Facebook, Youtube or as I read this week, Snapchat. All fabulous, but we maybe missing the basics. The building blocks of good strategic ICT use, on-line safety, planning for server replacement, costing of Open Source database systems and ensuring staff are competent in basic desktop software.

Last week I was at the GDS Digital Skills Forum, where two people admitted to me that although they had volunteers to teach media skills or how to use apps, they had to turn away some of the ‘more techie’ requests for help. At Lasa we are pulling together resources to help with topics such as Technology Planning and On-line Safety on the Connecting Care website, but I wonder if it's also something Skills For Care will pick up in their current technology research or that the Digital Skills website could cover?

Lasa have delivered a number of very successful Circuit Rider projects over the last 10 years, maybe we need to once again seek out these people, join them up, fill gaps, but most importantly let the organisations and communities know they are out there.

Until then we’ll continue to remind social care organisations that, “Yes, your Android Tablet should have an anti-virus app on it”, “Yes, your organisation should be critically evaluating cloud based file storage as a replacement for your elderly Windows 2003 server”, “No, there *are* alternatives to a spreadsheet for managing your client records!”, “No, using a USB Stick is *not* a robust backup strategy” ... and many more.

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