Don’t assume everyone is offline

When I’m talking at events or to meetings of people within an organisation about the benefits of moving communications and engagement activity online, I often have someone put their hands up and say:

I totally get what you are saying, Dave, but the problem is that we can’t move all this stuff online, because not everyone has access to the web.

Which of course is true, and something I experience more and more these days, living in a rural area myself.

There are two responses I usually give here. One is the most obvious and slightly boring, which is that online engagement is an as-well-as, and not an instead-of. Keep doing the offline stuff for the offline people!

I might also ask at this point, however, ‘what are you doing to fix this?’. In other words, if a large number of people in an area haven’t the access or the skills to use the internet – what are local public services doing to get this fixed?

The second response is the title of this post. Just as not everyone is accessible online, the reverse is also true – but few people seem to consider that!

Take me as an example. I don’t have time to go to meetings. I’d rather read a book than a council leaflet when I’m sat on the loo. I have an aversion to surveys or questionnaires.

I know lots of people like me. It’s not that we don’t care, or that we’re lazy. Our lives just don’t really have any room for some of these traditional mediums. I guess we’re into micro-participation territory again.

So people who are concerned about excluding those who don’t have online access might also want to think about how the way they do things now excludes people who find offline a turn off.

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