How can we put the principles of the manifesto into practice? In the third episode of a series, Maureen van Eijk, poverty alleviation coordinator in the municipality of Amsterdam, explains how the city interprets the ‘inclusive’ principle.
The topic came up repeatedly during the talks leading up to the creation of the manifesto: everyone should be able to participate in a digitally responsible city. In other words, in such a city, we have to focus considerable attention to educating people with limited digital skills. As far as that goes, lots of things are being organized in the municipality of Amsterdam, explains poverty alleviation coordinator Maureen van Eijk.
In 2017, the IamConnected project was launched in the Amsterdam West city district, starting by facilitating contact between students and the elderly. “We worked with third-year students at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences who also saw digitalization as a societal challenge. Most of them also had a grandparent who was struggling to keep up in this area,” Van Eijk explains.
The students first visited the participating over-65s to ask them what they would like to be able to do digitally. Some wanted to be able to use online journey planners like the 9292ov public transport site, others wanted to take a look at where they used to live or be able to Skype with their children or grandchildren, and some simply wanted to be able to play solitaire on their tablet. The main focus at this stage was to help them build confidence in their own capabilities.
Van Eijk: “After that, we organized a networking event where those people could learn more. At the end of the project, we made sure that everyone had someone in their extended network who they could contact if they had any more questions. The students and the elderly participants considered the project a resounding success.”
“Many projects in the field of poverty alleviation are intense, because there is so much suffering involved. But in this world, there is so much to gain for these people. We can literally expand their horizons. I witnessed a man in tears because he could use Google Earth to see the neighborhood where he used to live in Morocco, including the goat trails he used to walk.”
Van Eijk is also involved in another project that encourages inclusivity, called Tommi€. Working in partnership with Clockwork and Rabobank, an app was developed for people with a mild intellectual disability. “The app is extremely visual and explains playfully whether or not it is a good idea for a user to spend a certain amount of money. The idea is that the app will help them do less impulse shopping and be less easily persuaded to lend money to people in their network. We are currently testing the app.”
“We need to be aware that the pace of digital progress in our society is moving too fast for many people. Organizations are mostly focusing on the early adopters, which I get, but we should not lose sight of the slow adopters either.”