About the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII)
The purpose of the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) is to ensure that everyone who faces accessibility barriers due to disability, literacy, digital literacy, or aging, regardless of economic resources, can access and use the Internet and all its information, communities, and services for education, employment, daily living, civic participation, health, and safety.
As our countries build out their broadband infrastructures to ensure that broadband reaches everyone, it is important that 'everyone' includes people with disability, literacy, digital literacy, and aging related barriers to technology and internet use. We need to be sure that we don't stop at just connecting people to the Internet - but that we also see to it that they can actually use internet connected technologies, and benefit from all that they have to offer.
Are we creating a digital world that only some can access...
...with opportunities that only some can participate in?
We are building digital interfaces into everything – into all aspects of life from education to employment, to communication and travel, to socialization, and even to health, safety and daily living. As we build this new digital society – what about those who cannot understand or use these digital interfaces? How are they to participate? How are they to attend school if they cannot use digital technologies? How are elders to live independently? Are we moving people toward increasing dependence without realizing it?
Even those of us to can use digital interfaces find them increasingly confusing, having to turn to others with technology skills to help us operate things that we used to be able to do ourselves. As this continues more people are finding themselves unable to use the technologies (and digital interfaces on everyday things) they are encountering – and becoming more dependent.
Add to this the fact that we do not have good accessibility solutions at all for many types, degrees and combinations of disability....
… and the fact that, due to rapid digital product churn and proliferating digital platforms, we are actually falling further behind in having access on all of the digital platforms being created. People have an access solution on one platform, but not on the other technologies they encounter and must use.
The result is sort of a perfect storm, where we are creating an increasingly digital (digitally interfaced) society – one that requires the ability to access and understand digital interfaces -- but we do not have access solutions that work across the technologies that people encounter, and must operate, in ordinary life. And the percentage of people who can access all of the technologies they encounter is decreasing due to the proliferation of digital platforms, the lack of solutions that work cross platforms, and the increasingly closed nature of mobile and public devices.
What is needed
The problem is not unidimensional – and cannot be solved by any one action, or actor, or sector of society. SOME of the things that have been identified as necessary are
- better awareness of, and a better way to find solutions, if they exist anywhere, for each person facing barriers to digitial interface use due to disability, literacy, digital literacy or aging
- a way to make it easier to apply the solutions a person needs on any interface a person encounters anywhere, anytime, on any device
- an easier, lower cost way to create and market new solutions for those for whom good (or any) solutions do not exist for each platform/device they encounter
- More flexibility and built in interface options in everyday products and systems
- options for simpler and stable interfaces for those who cannot deal with complex or every changing interfaces
- options for those who cannot see or hear well or at all
- options for who cannot physically operate small controls or accurately make gestures
- options for those who are experiencing all of the above – such as some seniors
- compatibility and the ability to work with assistive technologies for those that cannot be addressed through built-in interface options
- Solutions that work across platforms
- New and better assistive technologies for those whose needs cannot be addressed through built-in interface options
- Better peer support systems so individuals can connect to and learn from others who have solved the problems that the individual
- and more
The GPII – what it is and isn’t
The GPII cannot solve the problem but it can provide the critical infrastructure needed to support solutions.
The GPII would not create new access technologies or services, (items 4-6 above) but would create the infrastructure for making their development, identification, delivery, and use -- easier, less expensive, and more effective (items 1 through 3 above) and make it easier for other players (individuals, organizations, companies, and governments) to do 4 through 8.
The GPII is an infrastructure being developed by teams internationally, to facilitate work worldwide to address these problems. The GPII is not the solution – but a necesary step in facilitating the solution. Just as building a road system does not provide transportation (but greatly enhances the ability of car companies and others to do so) the GPII does not solve the problem, but provides the infrastructure to solve the problem. Also like the road system which cannot be built or operated fairly by any one of the transportation industries that depend on it – the cross-sector, cross-platform GPII cannot be build and operated by any of the digital enterprise companies (mainstream and assistive technology) or service delivery sectors that would use it.
The GPII is a paradigm shift. From each entity trying to solve the problem individually to a cooperative, collaborative model that combined unified effort on general infrastructure and individual effort on better and more generally usable products, and services. Competition where that works best, and leads to innovation in individual designs and solutions, and collaboration on that which cannot be done by individual entities – that can only be done working together in a standard way (i.e the common infrastructure).
The GPII takes a comprehensive approach to ICT access, addressing 3 key barriers
- People do not know what will help them or even if anything exists that would help them.
- The GPII brings together information from around the world on “access to information and communication technologies (ICT) -- into a Unified Listing. (connecting assistive technology and mainstream ICT access databases so that any solution that exists anywhere in the world can be found )
- Using Assistive technology is too complicated and/or turning features on and configuring them each time a person encounters technology is too complicated, hard, or impossible for them.
- The GPII introduces, for the first time, cloud based auto-personalization of digital interfaces based on user needs and preferences — so that the interface of each digital device a person encounters will instantly change to one they can understand and use (rather than requiring users to figure out how to adapt, configure or install access features they need.)
- Solutions do not exist for a person’s type, degree or combination of disability
- The GPII introduces a new DeveloperSpace that brings together information, components, and tools in one place, providing pointers to resources anywhere on the web, making it easier, faster, and lower cost to develop new solutions -- and get them to market for users internationally.
The first versions of the DeveloperSpace and the Unified Listing were released in September 2017.
The auto-personalization is currently in a build-and-pilot-test phase on personal computers. Later it will extend to mobile and other technologies with digital interfaces. The auto-personalization on personal computers entered pilot testing in October 2017 in the first of a series of American Job Centers, with pilot testing in a Community College and several libraries following in 2018, and pilot testing in high schools in 2019. General availability outside of the pilots should occur in 2019 as well.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to fundamentally change and advance accessibility -
- to create an infrastructure that supports both commercial and non-commercial efforts to:
- make accessibility more affordable - to users, industry, government, and other stakeholders
- reach more of the people who need it than the estimated 3 - 15% we reach now
- make it all simpler
- serve disabilities and aging groups we don't now serve or serve well
- to build access that will work with the new technologies that are coming (that won't work with many of our current access strategies)
- and finally, to build something that can be replicated locally in other countries
- countries that don't have good access technologies or infrastructure today
- allowing these countries to provide access to their citizens and visitors as well.