Online resources and digital social media make our lives more convenient, enrich our personal lives, help us learn new skills and access career opportunities.
But more than that, we increasingly find that being online gives us influence and power.
Digital inclusion also has potential to strengthen communities, and the relationships between communities.
Some people choose not to get online for good reasons. But many people on low incomes remain outside the digital loop not out of choice. It costs money to use digital resources either at home, at an internet café, or on a mobile phone. People on low incomes are also less likely to have jobs where they can get online easily at work. You can access the internet for free at public libraries, but timeslots are often rationed, social websites are sometimes restricted, and these resources are now under threat from public spending reductions.
It also requires a basic level of literacy and technical know-how (along with other life skills) to exploit online resources and engage with digital communities.
In low income BME communities there are additional inhibitors to digital inclusion – language, negative cultural attitudes to the internet, and sometimes additional factors resulting from the geographic transience. Even in better-off BME communities where digital take-up is higher than average, engagement and access with public institutions and services may be lower than average because of language and cultural factors. As a result, the challenges BME communities face around integration and engagement, and the links between ethnicity and disadvantage which exist offline, are increasingly replicated online.
The Media4ME project aims to increase digital participation in neighbourhoods with high BME populations through two flagship projects. Over 18 months the project aims to increase digital literacy, encourage local digital conversations between people of different backgrounds, and strengthen interactions and transactions with public institutions and with public services – all at a neighbourhood level. It will so this through asset-based community development approaches, helping existing digital champions, using games to explore issues, using coaching to amplify the work of individuals, and using action learning to share and accelerate progress.
The Media4ME project itself will aim to generate online learning and discussion and stimulate a wider community of practice.
The Media4ME project in the UK is linked to a network of similar projects in six other EU countries. Participants in the UK projects will meet, learn, share and discuss their work with their international counterparts throughout the programme.
The UK projects are led by the NANM and Social Reporter.
By the end of the first year anyone interested in social media, digital inclusion, and online relationships between individuals, groups, and with public institutions will be able to go to Media4ME’s international web resource and find:
- some history of past work in this field, and ways to think about digital inclusion in BME neighbourhoods
- models for the overall process to engage people, plan action together, and start using social media
- ideas for projects, with advice on how to develop them
- a workshop game that they can use to do the collaborative action plan with their neighbours
- advice/signposts to advice on how to use social media
- ways to find other people with similar interests
Professionals and other enthusiasts in the field will be able to tailor and develop the materials to suit the local context
Within two years they will be able to
- see examples and case studies of how the process has worked in neighbourhoods in different countries and different geo-political contexts
- share and discuss new materials and ideas with others
- read and view content from conferences about the programme
- track the continuing development of Media4ME as the ideas are adopted and shared by other organisations
The project partners are:
- Mira Media (The Netherlands) – Consortium lead (You can use the Google Translate menu in the right hand column to translate the page into English, or another language)
- Vlaams Steunpunt Nieuwe Geletterdheid, LINC vzw (Belgium, Flanders)
- Media Animation (Belgium, Wallonia),
- Multicultural Institute (Czech Republic),
- Media Monitoring Agency, (Romania)
- MIER (Italy),
- National Association for Neighbourhood Management (UK)