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Friday, December 10, 2004

Digital Divide set to stay

A recent report has shown that currently 50% of Britons are without any form of internet access, and even as far away as 2025 40% of us still won't see the point in getting online at home.

If this is true, it threatens our society in quite a deep way. By 2025 (indeed, long before) the Government wants a lot of our infrastructure to be run via the Internet. (No doubt the telcos are quite keen on this idea too). Education will assume students have Internet access for research and, increasingly, everyday admin such as submitting work from home or keeping in touch with tutors.

The NHS would like people to make use of online systems to get health information rather than taking up valuable GP time.

Employers are more and more often requesting job applications and CVs to be emailed in to save on admin costs, and increasingly work is done from home rather than enduring the stressful, time-consuming, costly commute that so many people currently put up with daily.

Since I got connected at the age of 13 in 1998 I've noticed more and more of my everyday life coming to rely on Internet access. Coursework is submitted by email, course notes are all to be found online, communications with distant family and friends is achieved solely through instant messaging applications and Voice over IP systems. In the 6 short years since I first dialled up at 28kbps the world has changed phenomenally and yet many people are still left back in the 'pre-historic' world before the digital revoolution took off. I would now never consider anything less for my home than always-on 0.5Mbps Internet access as so much of my life depends on being able to communicate digitally with the rest of the world.

But with horror stories every day in the media of worms and viruses, hacker attacks and spyware, spam and the new menace, phishing - it's no surprise that a lot of less technically-confident people would rather steer clear of such a potential minefield.

Perhaps we need to take a step back and ensure our society is inclusive to all regardless of whether or not they have a broadband connection, rather than telling everyone they have to have a computer and Internet access to keep up with 'the modern world'.


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