I have been thinking about opening a blog, since I started my PhD. We PhD Students are often told that social media and digital communications are crucial to spread our research and enrich our network. As a PhD student in Digital business, a blog would be at least consistent with my research interests!
Finally, tonight I got the inspiration. I’ve just come back from one of those lovely cinemas that are struggling to survive in the era of piracy and streaming online. I watched “I, Daniel Blake”, the latest movie by Ken Loach, which is set in Newcastle (the city that hosts me at the moment).
Don’t worry! This blog won’t be about cinema – indeed, I am not a great expert. I definitely recommend this movie, but this post is not meant to review it. Yet, the movie made me reflect about my research and why I’m doing a PhD about the development of broadband networks and the diffusion of digital services.
“I, Daniel Blake” is about the inhuman bureaucracy to get social benefits in the UK. I wouldn’t mind talking about bureaucracy and social welfare, but I don’t think this would be a good starting. However, the movie gives also an evocative glimpse on the contradictions of our (supposed-to-be) digital era.
Daniel, the protagonist, struggles to get his job seekers allowance because he is not very familiar with online applications and websites. Yet, the public service is “digital by default” so Daniel has no choice but fight with mouse and browsers.
Luckily, he is helped by his young neighbour, who has just started up a dubious business with a Chinese guy. The three of them ends up talking about English football on Skype.
In my view, these few scenes perfectly depict the opposite sides of digitisation.
One the one hand, digital is an incredible opportunity to communicate and get in touch with people from all over the world. This means that expats and migrants can keep in touch with their families. Businesses can find new suppliers and clients overseas. Researchers can share their ideas; doctors can share their findings and techniques. In fact, a broadband connection can effectively ease and improve our lives.
On the other hand, the digital can be transformed in a barrier – simply because we are NOT digital by default. Some people cannot use a computer, because they never had one or they are too old – and old people can do things than digital natives cannot even spell. A broadband connection may not be enough, if either its quality is bad or the connected device is not up to date. Sometimes (actually, very often), people do not even have access to broadband, because either they cannot afford it or their houses are not served by network providers.
To get the most out of digitisation, we must assure that everyone has access to broadband and the skills to sensibly use it. We need to assure that people can understand and leverage the opportunities of digital services. It isn’t only about how to use it, but also how we use it.
Therefore, this blog is called “@ digital Evolution”. Because there are loads of articles and posts about the ‘digital revolution’, but we need to talk more about digital as a tool for social and economic evolution. Digital per se is not good or bad – we just need to use it wisely!
This blog is meant to be a platform to share and discuss views about digital economy and policy in the digital ecosystem. I will post in both English and Italian, about both my research and the world outside. Feel free to share and comment!