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Scotland’s CleverCogs system increases digital participation amongst older people

Carnegie UK has recently published an evaluation carried out by Just Economics on the CleverCogs™ digital care and support system introduced in Scotland in 2015. The evaluation’s findings suggest that this system is an especially effective way of improving digital inclusion of older people with disabilities, who are unlikely to go online independently.

Significant positive outcomes as a result of implementation

Amongst the positive outcomes reported were:

  • increased digital participation among older customers, with the proportion of internet users more than doubling as a result of the system being introduced
  • increase time spent on meaningful activities, such as accessing entertainment and news online
  • a reduction in boredom amongst users
  • improvements in self-reported mental well-being and happiness, which were, at least in part, attributed to the use of the CleverCogs™ system

What is CleverCogs™?

CleverCogs™ was designed and implemented by Blackwood Homes and Care (a housing and care provider for people with disabilities in Scotland). CleverCogs™ is delivered via a tablet computer. It is based on original software developed by a Dutch Company called Soft Orange. Blackwood used this software to develop ‘CleverCogs™’ as a bespoke package for its customers.

The ‘Cogs’ represent aspects such as lifestyle, home automation, safety, health, wellbeing, entertainment, and so on. Blackwood’s aim via CleverCogs™ is to provide services that improve the quality of life, choice and independence of their customers, in particular to increase digital participation in adults in receipt of care and support packages, and to enable increased use of Technology Enabled Care in service delivery.

Combatting the risk of digital technology exacerbating inequalities

Blackwood has over 1,500 social housing tenants, just over 400 care-at-home customers, 60 residential care home residents and 17 night support service customers. The majority of their customers are older people as well as those with physical disabilities and learning disabilities.

Strong links have been found between digital and other forms of social exclusion – age, education, social isolation, and unemployment. As a result, there is a very real risk that digital technology is already exacerbating rather than bridging existing inequalities in our society. In Scotland, as with other jurisdictions, people with disabilities and older people are two of the most digitally excluded groups in society.

A key feature of CleverCogs™ is that it can provide an option of ‘simplified access’ to the internet, for those who have either never used the internet or who do not have the technology, skills, confidence or ability to do so independently at home. The ‘simplified internet access’ product includes online entertainment, online health information and social media. The aim is that these features increase digital participation amongst a group who are some of the most digitally excluded, as well as increasing the amount of time customers spend on meaningful activity, which will in turn have positive impacts on wellbeing, social engagement and the self-management of health conditions.

Potential to further contribute to reduced feelings of social isolation

CleverCogs™ is an effective tool for improving life satisfaction and general well-being for this older group who have been shown to have high needs in this area. The system holds promise therefore for reaching those with the most entrenched digital exclusion and improving their quality of life. Future research on the more advanced features (such as a Friends and Family app which would help to connect users with their loved ones via audio and video communications) could contribute further to a reduction in social isolation for the users.

 

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