I am honoured to be supporting the Digital Inclusion Activist Network on the study trip to Berlin. As I am writing this in an East Berlin apartment the volunteers are preparing for a live video broadcast to share the study findings with others across Europe.
The focus of the stay has been digital inclusion. What does this mean in Germany, how is the issue approached, are there good practices that can be bought back to the UK and how are volunteers trained?
Our first day in Berlin was taken in attendance to a conference hosted by Bundesminister für Wirtschaft und Technologie (Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology). The event showcased six projects under the banner of Internet erfahren – the German Government’s digital inclusion initiative.
What became apparent very quickly was that the German Digital Inclusion landscape was comparative to the UK’s. 72% (48 million) of the population are online. However 23% constitutes the active participants. The remaining 19 million German people not online are cause for concern for the German government for all of the same economic and social reasons the UK government and our home grown excluded.
The headline introduction from the German minister for the interior, Hans-Joachim Otto, advised the conference to remember to celebrate the success to date, that the German economy was in growth contrary to the rest of Europe, that the digitally excluded had been demographically and geographically identified, that a main task was to develop filtering skills to avoid information overload and that it was the personal mission of every conference delegate to show one person the potential of the internet. An upbeat – moving forward – big picture/ no detail speech as one would expect.
Deutsche Postbank AG presented on the issues they are facing with an ageing customer base. Online transactions represent a significant part of their business yet older citizens were not using convenience of this facility. Postbank targeted 30,000 customers and invited them to an internet training session with the aim of ‚growing’ online bankers. Customers were asked if they would be interested in being a trainer or being a trainee. 200 of 3,000 were selected, half trainers, half trainees. The groups spent a morning apart, the trainers being couched in delivering online banking training as well as general online coaching. Each learner was then partnered with a volunteer trainee acting as mentor for the afternoon. With a 10% response rate Postbank were pleased to have identified a customer need that would give the bank an edge not offered by competitors. I could not help wonder why only 200 customers had been invited to participate, what ongoing relationship was undertaken by the volunteers and learners, what indemnity did the bank offer the learner customers against misguided mentoring by volunteers with only half a day’s training?
Stay tuned… more to follow… look out for the next postcard from Berlin…