'The whole world is stopping at WWW':
: an analysis of how Norfolk Library and Information Services' surf's up can help close the digital divide amongst older people

  • Katherine Stephan

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


Despite increased accessibility to the internet and significant investment to
encourage computer usage and access various initiatives, there is still a substantial portion, of older people in particular, that are not online. In 2010, Norfolk Library and Information Service (NLIS) received a grant from the BIG Lottery Fund to run a series of six-week computer courses entitled Surf’s Up, for older people aged over 65, over a four year period. This study aims to describe and explain how Surf’s Up impacted on a relatively small cohort - nineteen people - and the extent to which participation has helped to close the digital divide. The objectives are then to establish what parts of the course could be duplicated or modified to fit within the wider context of computer courses aimed at older people. Using a mixed method approach, using four different libraries and settings across Norfolk, feelings towards computers and attitudes about Surf’s Up were gathered via a questionnaire at their first session, followed by a focus group at their final session. In the main, these participants were satisfied with their learning but most wanted further tutorials, feeling that they had more to learn and many were not completely confident to explore the internet on their own. For most, the key to getting online was a meaningful motivation, something that had importance in their own lives, such as emailing, talking to family members or watching programmes online. Though timeconsuming,
the qualitative data gathered proved a rich source of material by which to
receive feedback. Although libraries have been instrumental in providing internet
access and computer tuition, given cuts in public sector and libraries in particular, the viability of courses such as Surf’s Up may be uncertain.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorAnoush Simon (Supervisor)

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