Two significant births took place 66 years ago, which ought to be celebrated and recognised for the way they each changed the face of Britain, one quite literally.

On July 5, 1948 – that’s 66 years to the day as I publish this – the National Health Service was established, nationalising and making free at the point of use for the first time the existing system across the UK. For Scotland, the change was as dramatic as elsewhere, but surprisingly perhaps, not without precedent.

And that same year, on March 21, Scott E. Fahlman was born: the man credited with introducing the first smiley emoticon to the world in 1982. Both radically different stories but ones whose paths cross today. 

It’s Been Emoticon

The NHS, though, didn’t just suddenly appear. Through the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, set up in 1913, half of Scotland’s landmass by 1948 was already covered by a state-funded health system [1]. The war years had also seen a state-funded hospital building programme in Scotland on a scale unknown in Europe, and which was then incorporated into the new NHS.

Perhaps reflective of today, where the NHS in England is currently driven by the principle of competition with Scotland preferring collaboration, the health system north of Hadrian’s Wall in 1948 was founded on working relationships; in England it was forced through by Parliamentary process. Other nuances also still seem to endure: the actual cost of the introduction of the NHS was £235 million, for example, 40 per cent higher than the £176 million estimated. Edinburgh Trams anyone?

What is Digital Literacy?

There can be few of us who haven’t used an emoticon 😉 …like them or loathe them they’re symptomatic of the here and now, lurking round every corner of our digital worlds. But our digital worlds are ever-changing and it can be hard to keep up. How to keep up? My advice is work to your strengths while working on your weaknesses. And that means tackling digital literacy.

This isn’t primarily about knowing how to tweet or post to Facebook – digital media is about more than social media, though it may encompass that depending on your role, position or perspective – but better understanding ways in which using mobile and web-based technologies can help people engage and access the right information and services at the right time.

Wikipedia describes digital literacy as, “The ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. It requires one “to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms”. Digital literacy does not replace traditional forms of literacy. It builds upon the foundation of traditional forms of literacy.”

10 Rules To Help Improve Your Digital Literacy

  1. Be confident in your own self, give yourself purpose 🙂
  2. We all need supported so don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you better understand the digital world around you. Libraries, either your local one or librarians at work, are often a good place to start.
  3. Discover what works for you and don’t be scared to explore
  4. Know the rules of the game; if you are working, read your employer’s guidelines on social and digital media use within and outwith work. When you start work then it ought to be included in any induction pack.
  5. Stay as safe as you can be but accept mistakes can happen; rectify them as soon as you can, or constructively draw others’ attention to their potential mistakes, they’ll appreciate it (I would)
  6. Consider the digital footprint you may leave behind when you go online – do you want everyone to see THAT? Maybe you do.
  7. Be open to the benefits, consider the creative options, and educate yourself on the risks
  8. Identify digital touch points – what impact is digital having around you and is it causing exclusion? Remember, digital habits will look different for different people – there is no one-size-fits-all
  9. Put yourself in others’ shoes; walk their path: Question how people are behaving and why; ask where they are living their digital lives; and what digital connections, networks or platforms can offer best outcomes for specific needs.
  10. Get involved but remember that people-watching is good fun too, even digitally 😀

I think just some of these will help improve your skills, but the more you can tick off, the better prepared you’ll be. And not just you but those around you. You’ll be infectious but no need for quarantine because you’ll be able to go forth and share and spread knowledge.

2020 Vision

The next five or six years from now will see a far more dramatic shift in the way in which we connect, communicate, collaborate and combine our work digitally than even in the last five years. Those small pockets of radical practice ought to become the norm and the best you can do is to be ready for it. The NHS has continually evolved, driving forward beneficial and innovative changes to support us in the way we live our lives.

Economic conditions and Political wranglings aside, the NHS faces arising challenges and opportunities: integration of health and social care, social determinants of health, enduring gaps in inequalities, people living longer, providing care closer to home, a public becoming accustomed to instant gratification, and – underpinning and weaving between a lot of this – issues of digital participation, digital inclusion and digital literacy.

Even at 66, at the tipping point of a Public Sector digital revolution, there are some signs that the NHS in Scotland is not too old to byte but infact ready and willing to face up to these digital challenges.

The question is, are you?

Take it easy

Photo Credit: dno1967b via Compfight cc

[1] Source: www.ournhsscotland.com