Digital exclusion

Digital exclusion in later life

This article on digital exclusion has provoked much discussion here and online (ironically) this morning: Being online is for everyone – age shouldn’t be an excuse. The article is commenting on another article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph today: Go online or lose access to government services, Maude tells pensioners.

Government saves billions, excludes millions

The original Telegraph article covers Francis Maude’s presentation to civil servants lauding the billions of savings made by government through moving public government services online (we’re making a distinction here between public facing, and internal, government IT projects). The Tinder Foundation’s short article makes the point that digital services are of benefit to everyone, whatever age, and that access to the internet can make a huge positive difference to people’s lives in later years, but that we can’t abandon the oldest in our society to sink or swim after a one-off digital lesson, which is what the government is proposing to provide, and that Maude’s tone is unhelpfully negative about “online refuseniks”.

We at OpenSure wholly agree with this point and very much support the Tinder Foundation’s aims and achievements. Clearly we see the benefits of technology of all sorts and would love to see everyone benefitting from it, but to hector those less familiar, or entirely ignorant of, the concepts, the hardware and the logistics behind regular, home-based access to web-based services is not the way to achieve this.

Tailing-off of traditional services

From a personal point of view I will always prefer to book doctor’s appointments, reserve library books and shift money about through a website – it’s quick, it works and I can do it whenever it suits me (and I don’t have to run the gauntlet of doctors’ receptionists). My view is that the more I do that, the tiny bit freer the phone and the counters will be at these institutions for those that prefer to go in person or ring up to make their arrangements.

As time moves on and the oldest in our society have comfortably been using the internet for years, then naturally the call on traditional services will tail away. Can we not allow this to happen in a painless and pensioner-friendly way? Having seen the struggle an elderly lady had in the bank today using the key pad at the counter, even with the help of a very patient clerk, I fail to see how Francis Maude can kid himself for a moment that his policy can work.

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