One of the issues surrounding poverty, cited in research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is lack of media exposure; non-news broadcasts rarely mentions the subject, and when they do they tend to focus on extreme cases.
There’s an apparently easy response to that: the internet. The resources are there now to bypass – even influence – traditional media.
There are two obstacles though.
Firstly, how to harness the power of social media tools to make your voice heard above the clamour of millions (and counting) of others.
Secondly, the dilemma that the poorest in society, in a civic sense as well as an economic one, are likely to be the least able or motivated to access those tools in the first place.
The British government recently pledged £xm to put computers and broadband into the hands of the nation’s poorest. This sounds great, and yes the tools can’t be used if they’re not available, but one day they will need replacing (and besides, the government has also just pledged £xb to protect our finances).
What we tend to forget is that most people already have tools of some kind or other. I’m not currently in front of a PC, I’m writing and publishing this post from my mobile phone, on the train. Granted the tools are poorer than those of my office PC, but still perfectly adequate.
The question then is of how to help people use the tools available to them.
There is a lot of discussion at the moment about ‘digital mentoring’ (of which I am broadly in favour), and of how informal and mutual education can be used to help bridge the ‘digital divide’.
And those mentors who start from a deeper understanding of the technologies are themselves in a good position to publicise the stories of the people they engage with. While many of those would probably do that anyway, encouraging mentors to be advocates could provide more ammunition for the fight aganst poverty.