As in many developed countries, government services in the UK are going digital, yet often the people who need them the most are not able to access them. Elizabeth Rust reports on the 17% who are digitally excluded, as much as 10% of the population may never gain online skills, this according to the government’s Digital Inclusion Chapter.
Richard Taylor had signed on for Jobseekers Allowance twice since October and received two payments. Each time he signed on, his payments were stopped because he couldn’t prove he was searching for work 35 hours a week. He doesn’t have a computer and relies on the local library internet which limit user time.
Taylor is not alone in not having internet access. Yet at the same time, government services are becoming “Digital by Default”, and access to services are primarily done online. The government’s Digital Efficiency Report shows that digital transactions are 20 times cheaper than by phone, 30 times cheaper than by mail and 50 times cheaper than by face-to-face. Services from 34 government departments and 331 agency websites have been merged into one.
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, isn’t against government services going online. She is concerned, however, that government is going “Digital by Default” simply to cut costs while forgetting about people who don’t have internet access or skills to use it. That number about 19% in April 2014, down from 21% in October 2013.
To address the issue, Onwurah has launched the Digital Government Review to determine how the government’s digital services can best benefit the people who need them. The Digital Inclusion Charter launched in April 2014 begins to address the problem, aiming to reduce the number of people offline by 25% by 2016.
Despite this, the charter estimates the 10% of the population may never gain basic digital capabilities.
Read Article (Elizabeth Rust | theguardian.com | 06/23/2014)
In a perfect world, the evolution of technology and evolution of individuals learning to use it, would occur at the same pace; unfortunately that didn’t happen and the Digital Divide is the result.
But, together we can seriously begin to address this Digital Divide.
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