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Digital Lancashire’s Women in Tech: “What is Digital?”

Digitisation has driven change across a range of industries, with many of the more traditional businesses introducing digital solutions to traditional processes. Just placing the word “digital” in front of a sector can now create a whole new sub-niche, Digital Marketing, Digital Journalism, Digital Health, Digital Printing, but when we use the word “Digital”, are we all talking about the same thing?

For this event we explored the question “what is Digital?” with a panel of business owners, partnership coordinators and educational establishments – do they understand “Digital” in different ways to each other? Do guests feel the same?

The all-encompassing term for years has been the topic of discussion with digital sector leaders and non-digital sectors trying to understand how digital fits into their daily life and work.

Our fabulous panel for this event was Dr Andrew Ireland, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital & Creative Industries), UCLAN, Susanna Boccaccio, Creative Director, Brilliant Trees Media and Kerry Harrison, Digital Skills Coordinator, Digital Skills Partnership Coordinator for Lancashire and we also discussed this topic in groups within the room, kindly hosted by UCLAN.

Concepts around “Digital” included the conversion from “analogue” to “digital” in the Television industry, mechanical engineering and “co-botics” (the blend of humans and robots working together) and how we can learn from these changes in technology.

We talked about how we should be focusing on using Digital Technology as a tool to get our job done or achieve our goals, rather than getting distracted by the shiny new tech!

Participants also discussed getting user/staff buy-in before rolling out new technology in businesses and organisations, to check it’s fit-for-purpose by those who use the tech on a daily basis. Then to follow up properly by supporting those expected to use this new technology as part of their role, with training and guidance.

It was also noted that assumptions should not be made that people who are seen to use digital, will be able to use new tech straight away. A Prince’s Trust report found that 16-24 year old, who people might assume know digital really well… actually lack the confidence and digital skills for being recruited for a new job role. In the same respect an 84 year old might be a whizz with a tablet to find recipes or savings on their car insurance… the key is to find what interests someone to use digital – is it to complete their work, save money, learn more, connect with family and friends etc. etc. etc. The list could be endless, the key is it needs to be personal to them.

And a Women in Tech event would not be complete without considering how to include… or avoid excluding… anyone with Digital. With 16% of the UK still lacking in Digital Skills, how will you help reduce this number? The idea of those who choose to not engage with Digital… otherwise known as “Digital Dismissives” should still be offered the opportunity to engage, but should not be forced into using Digital. But how does that work longer term, say in 10 years time. Do you think we will still being using the word “Digital” to describe things with do as part of daily life?

And a final thought for accessibility – how do we make sure everyone who wants to use Digital, can do, regardless of background, class, disability or demographic?

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