Thursday, October 28, 2010

Skype. A digitalrevolutions success story.

Its been ages since I updated this blog.
I thought I would do it today in the light of what has been going on this last month.
I saw an entry for a competition called the Sheffield Digitalrevolutions DocFest.
I am a great believer in the benefits of digital technology, and I work as a volunteer to help spread the benefits of ICT for a charity called WrayComCom, which is part of a University of Lancaster Living Lab research experiment. We work towards digitalinclusion for all, no matter where they live or how rich or poor they are.
I had to make a film about the benefits digital technology had brought into my life. I decided to feature skype in the film because it has made a tremendous difference to mine. Yesterday the bbc used a clip of the film in the National news, and they also interviewed me on skype, which saved a tremendous amount of carbon and time for either me, or Rory Cellan-Jones and a film crew. To me that shows the importance of rural areas getting a connection to join the digital revolution, as many more virtual meetings could take place in the same way.

When I first started using a computer it was on dial up, and skype chats were about all I could manage. Then we got broadband connection through the local community wifi network. My life changed. I told everyone about it and helped them try it out. They all loved it and they got others to get online to use it.
My uncle bought my aunty a computer and camera so that we could chat to each other and she could point the camera at the screen to show me any problem she was having. It also enabled us to keep in touch all through her chemotherapy because she lives a long way away from me, and little chats and virtual visits helped to keep her cheerful, I know it can never take the place of meeting up face to face, but sometimes that isn’t always possible... brother and sister live in the USA, and at christmas we fire up the skype and the whole family gets together, it makes the day extra special, and we open gifts from each other and admire the decorations on each other’s trees. The time differences mean that the skype is on nearly all day, but the computer lives on the kitchen table so it brings them into our home on every special occasion.

When my mum died we found skype invaluable, because the phone line had to be free waiting for calls from undertakers and stuff, but we had flights and accommodation to book for lots of people, so skype took over, giving us instant access to all the family and a virtual phone line with skypeout to ring hotels if they weren’t online.

Since my grandchildren have been born they have been raised seeing me and talking to me on skype. It means when they come to visit I am not a stranger, and there is no shyness, I am as much a part of their lives as if they all lived next door. There are three of them visiting at the moment, and they loved watching the interview yesterday.

When they get to around 3 or 4 they skype me themselves to tell me all their news. I have been known to virtually babysit while their mums nip upstairs to get the washing or make the beds, me and the kids have a chat and they don’t get up to mischief. We also experimented with virtually potty training the twins, but to be honest it didn’t work all that well.

In the old days people didn’t move far away from where they were born, and the extended family was always around to support the others. Nowadays people move all over the world with their careers, and skype helps bridge the distance and make the world a smaller place. The old gossips over the garden wall now take place over the internet, and the world is better for it. Skype helps make the world go round, and it has been one of the best things in my life.

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