Ofcom report: Next Generation Services for Older and Disabled People

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In 2009 the UK’s telecoms industry regulator Ofcom’s Advisory Committee on Older and Disabled People commissioned a consultancy to write a report looking at “the products and services which next generation broadband offers, focusing on those that could particularly benefit older and disabled citizens and consumers.” The report, final version just published, “brings together for the first time examples of a wide range of applications that this technology has the potential to deliver. Some of these can be delivered only by next generation networks, whilst others can be delivered through more reliable and consistent broadband connections at current speeds, with more sophisticated, richer applications possible via next generation networks. Services such as remote health monitoring and consultations, mentoring and befriending schemes, home and community security initiatives, teleworking and life?long learning programmes are just some of the areas in which next generation broadband could deliver wider societal, economic and community benefits to  older and disabled people, as well as to society as a whole.”

With the report the committee encourages the telecoms industry to consider the potential for the wider deployment of the next generation (fast) broadband. At least the study acknowledges (by quoting Graham Worsley of the Technology Strategy Board) that:”If you’re just transmitting health data it doesn’t require high bandwidth. It’s only when you want to try and do […] video conferencing, remote telemedicine that you need bandwidth or bandwidth improves the quality of the actual service that you’re able to deliver. So it’s low cost and that everything is available, anytime anywhere.”

Is it worth spending time to read?

The short answer is that the health section will be familiar territory for Telecare Aware readers who have been keeping up with our news item postings over the past year or two. For others with an interest in the application of broadband technology to health and telecare, or who have an interest in the other fields covered, then the answer may be “Maybe.”

And the UK demographic and technological trends information may be a useful source of reference material for business cases.

Weaknesses of the report

After an admittedly quick scan through, it seems to this editor (Steve) that there are a couple of weaknesses that are immediately apparent.

The first is that because the study involved desk research, interviews with experts in relevant fields and email submissions, no actual real older or disabled people were consulted for their views. (In fact disabled people hardly get a mention beyond the title, at least in the health section.)

The second is that the main ‘live’ sources of information on telecare and telehealth appear to be representatives from Intel and Tunstall. That fact alone will have introduced particular biases.

Was there any ‘older people’ representation in the material collected?

The only thing that came close, as far as I could see, was an email submission from Nancy Johnston, Technology & Digital Inclusion Development Manager Services Directorate of Age Concern and Help the Aged [now Age UK]. Her contribution is quoted in full in the separate Annex C.

I warmed to her when I saw she was the only person to have attempted to correct the strange grammatical construction of questions 2 and 3, which read ‘What will they benefit people?’ and ‘What will they benefit older and disabled people in particular?’ respectively.

Download the report and annexes from Ofcom’s website.