Next Generation Services for Older and Disabled People, summary of research for Ofcom’s Advisory Committee on Older and Disabled people

1.    This paper summarises the results of a study involving desk and interview research with experts in relevant fields, commissioned by Ofcom’s Advisory Committee on Older and Disabled people (ACOD) from i2 media research, on Next Generation Services for older and disabled people.

2.    We use Next Generation Services (NGS) to refer to new and improved Telecommunication Services which make use of the speed and capacity of Next Generation Networks (NGN, high speed internet networks) and are delivered to end users via Next Generation Access (NGA, high speed data connections to people’s homes.)

3.    The study objectives were to identify and report: (i) details of new and near-future NGS that could benefit older and disabled people’s lives, and (ii) the potential benefits and the risks and challenges to their realisation.

4.    Within scope were services that: (i) require high bandwidth to the user; (ii) require high connection speeds between people; (iii) are likely to require higher speed and capacity networks when multiple services and users are using the network at the same time; and (iv) extend the functionality of existing products and services in a world of superfast broadband.

5.    The research identified that the opportunities and potential benefits to older and disabled people offered by NGS are manifold, where future services promise greater social and economic inclusion and engagement.

6.    Such benefits cannot be taken for granted because there are risks, challenges and barriers to the implementation of NGS.  Addressing the challenges is essential for the potential positive impacts of NGS on the lives of older and disabled people to be realised.

7.    The project identified a broad range of potential benefits to older and disabled people from NGS, in all areas of life, including in relation to health and wellbeing, work and education, leisure, and other day-to-day activities.  Our paper will give examples of the potential benefits of NGS to older and disabled people in each of these areas.  The potential benefits include:

a.     Improved access;

b.     Increased participation;

c.     Improved wellbeing; and

d.     Richer entertainment.

8.    The project’s expert interviewees identified three groups of risks and challenges to be addressed for the potential benefits of NGS to older and disabled people to be realised, relating to:

a.     Accessibility;

b.     Logistics; and

c.     Impacts.

9.    To conclude, NGS offer many potential benefits to older and disabled people, but their realisation will depend on effectively addressing challenges relating to: infrastructure, usability and accessibility, embedding best practice in product and service R&D, standards for interoperability; the regulatory and legislative environment supporting the development of accessible products and services; and cost.