Professor Leela Damodaran
From: Mountbatten Memorial Prestige Lecture, London, 10 November 2010.
10 November 2010 IT channel
Modern telecommunications are transforming lives, empowering capabilities and offering â€œthe greatest opportunity there has ever been for human progressâ€ (Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union, 2010). But will this be a universal benefit? We need everyone to be connected, taught how to navigate cyberspace and then nurtured on their journey within it. An inclusive digital society is an ambitious vision which needs championing by the international community and implementing by national governments. Broadband networks are vital if everyone is going to fly in cyberspace.
Leela Damodaran is Professor of Participative Design and Change Management within the Research School of Informatics at Loughborough University. As a founder member of the former Human Sciences and Advanced technology (HUSAT) Research Institute at Loughborough University and later as a Director for many years, she has engaged in and led a multiplicity of programs and projects related to the human use of information and communications technologies.
Currently she leads the Information, Technology and Society Research Group in the Research School for Informatics at Loughborough University. This group conducts research in the human and social aspects of informatics, with special emphasis on social and digital inclusion. Leela herself specialises in the behavioural aspects of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and is currently the Principal Investigator of â€˜Sus-ITâ€™, a 39-month collaborative research project funded jointly by all five UK Research Councils and led by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
This project is investigating how ICT use can be sustained by older people to promote autonomy and independence. The multidisciplinary research consortium is working collaboratively directly with older people and with other stakeholder organisations to generate new knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of ageing in relation to the dynamics of ICT use and development. In particular the project is investigating the actual and potential barriers to sustained and effective use of ICTs by older people, and exploring a range of potential sociotechnical solutions to these barriers through the use of prototypes, forum theatre and â€˜sandpitâ€™ activities.
Leela is also a member of the KT-EQUAL consortium established specifically to exploit a decade of investment by EPSRC in ageing and disability research. The KT-EQUAL consortium brings together experts in engineering, construction, architecture, participatory and inclusive design, rehabilitation, psychology, change management and public engagement to work collaboratively with each other and with older people to promote knowledge transfer in innovative and effective ways. Further information is available on the SPARC website.
Leela has been a member of the Ofcom Strategic Advisory Board (OSAB) since its inception and was also a member of its fore-runner â€“ the Spectrum Management Advisory group (SMAG). She chairs the Digital Technologies and Social Inclusion Consortium in partnership with the University of Dundee, is also Chair of the e-democracy study group of the British Computer Society Sociotechnical Group and frequently serves on the steering groups for research projects run by other organisations.
Other current/recent studies include
The Inclusive Digital Economy network project to promote awareness and understanding of the issues associated with empowering older people and other potentially marginalized groups to participate in the Digital Economy
SafetyNet: a 12 month network funded by the cross-council New Dynamics of Ageing Program (Nov 2006 - Oct 2007) to explore the implications of age-related capability changes on the information and support needs of older ICT users. This project included a survey of Digital Engagement to ascertain the use of a range of digital technologies by older people
Survey of the implementation of local eGovernment in the UK
Evaluation Study of Charnwood Borough Council Citizen Panel
Pilot study of Digital Engagement to ascertain the use of a range of digital technologies by a small sample of older people living in the Charnwood area of the East Midlands