Can we enable social mobility through technology? ZPB contributes to major new report.

Technological change is a pervasive force in society. However, the benefits of new technology are not evenly spread. The RSA, working with Google, has been leading a major project to test the benefits of new technology in enabling social mobility. It’s the first piece of research under their Power to Create umbrella. They found that for some, technology has opened new creative opportunities but others, whilst they see the possibilities they have yet to fully realise the full potential that digital and other new technologies might offer.

Three main groups were identified:

  1. The ‘confident creators’ who are adept at using new technology to develop their knowledge, creativity and social capital.

  2. The ‘held back’ not only see the benefits of new technology but they are using it to learn. However, they feel that they need more support, a greater level of learning and more confidence to make their hopes a reality.

  3. Finally, there are the ‘safety firsters’. This group is least engaged with new technology and the Internet. It’s not that they aren’t connected; it’s just that they see it less a part of their lives than the other two groups.

ZPB was asked by the RSA to build the core evidence base for the report. The research, led by Charlotte Highmore, concluded that whilst advances in technology are apparent, the incentives, economic as well as social and motivational, do not always guarantee its adoption.

There are clear lessons from this report that need to be applied in the health and care sector. The National Information Board framework set out last year how technology should be used to improve the treatment given to patients. But clinicians in hospitals and policy makers need to recognise that diffusion of technology will not be uniform. They could perhaps use the grouping identified in this report to make sure they technology is narrowing rather than widening inequalities.

Read the new digital learning age report

Read a blog by lead author Anthony Painter