Digital Participation

The Digital Inclusion Group was formed from over thirty members representing a wide range of organisations, public and private, working in some way with older people and digital technology. The group is planning to relaunch shortly as the Digital Participation Group (DPG). The DPG aims to establish varied ways of meeting the ICT learning support needs of people in later life through utilising the collective expertise, experience and wide-ranging networks of its members.

Digital participation is the proactive involvement of people in the online world. It centres on the person’s interests and typically uses a friendly trusted intermediary (often a peer) to help them to use digital technologies to do things they want to do. This can be finding content online, printing out photographs, using Skype, putting apps on their phone and many other activities which are relevant to their lives, focusing on the interests and passions of the individuals involved.

Experience shows that successful participation in the digital world usually means works at the pace of the person involved and according to their personal agenda. Significantly, the process does not prescribe specific standards, equipment, internet access or knowledge and lasts as long as the person needs support. There have been many good case studies outlining this approach which suggest that local communities are best placed to define, encourage and maintain digital participation.

A Message from the Chair

Leela Damodaran

Leela Damodaran

The Chair, Leela Damodaran, Emeritus Professor of Digital Participation and Participation at Loughborough University.  Leela’s expertise is in the behavioural aspects and human use of information and communications technologies (ICTs), the planning of change and transition, strategies for social and digital inclusion, citizen engagement and participation.

As well as engaging in research, she works as an independent policy advisor with government departments, local government, commercial companies, and other key stakeholder groups to inform policy and strategic decisions relating to ICT use and digital participation.

She also works extensively with communities and grass-roots organisations (e.g. the East Midlands Later Life Forum and the Action Group on Technology and Ageing of the South East England Forum on Ageing (SEEFA) to promote successful digital participation of older people).


Current Focus

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The Digital Participation Group considers that the digital participation of older people is critical to enable older people to connect, improve their health and wellbeing and take part successfully and with confidence in our digital society. Key government policy areas are heavily reliant on citizens having the confidence and support to access, participate in, and influence services and activities. The Group will be an active forum for wide-spread digital participation and bringing together evidence of successful practice from grass-roots practitioners and from academic research to influence policymakers in order to meet the digital support needs of older people.

The Group’s remit is to achieve the successful digital participation of older people. That may come through influencing others, supporting each other, combining assets, exploring new ideas with user participation and making bold suggestions, working in participation with a wide range of stakeholders and end users.  The aims are:

  • To forge diverse community-based synergies to give large numbers of the 13 million people not currently online, reassuring, enjoyable and rewarding paths to digital participation.
  • To establish varied ways of meeting the ICT learning support needs of people in later life through exploiting our collective expertise, experience and wide-ranging networks and involving the intended ICT users in the planning and design of provision.
  • To be advocates for wide-spread digital participation and a think tank for organisations involved in the process; evidencing best practice; highlighting barriers and recommending ways to increase digital participation.

Popular Resources

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EngAgeNet’s comprehensive new publication: ‘A New Narrative on Ageing’

Member Resource

Negative portrayals of older people are commonplace: the media is largely preoccupied with the assumed cost of ageing, reinforcing a view that older people are dead weight in society - non-productive beneficiaries of state largesse; at the same time, however, they are perceived as well off, and in the eyes of some social commentators responsible for both the housing crisis and youth unemployment.  Like any group outside the social mainstream, older people are routinely stereotyped and are the subject of many false assumptions and untruths.