The internet as a means of exclusion

You and Yours:How has the internet changed your life?
Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 – Tue 04 Sep – 12:00

I recorded this show the other day and converted it to MP3 because I know the BBC website only holds it for a week.
Sadly I’m having a few problems uploading it to my host (big file + dodgy connection = problems) Once I’ve got that sorted it’ll be linked to on here for your listening pleasure, until then should you be curious enough to want to hear it then just contact me and I’ll email it to you.

A lot of issues were discussed but the one that caught my attention was this; according to guest Justin Maclaren, 17 million adults in the UK have never used the net.
He quoted that statistic from the ONS database (office for National Statistics) and from the same source you can see that of all the people questioned apparently 40% of women don’t use the net and 82% of people over 65 have never used the net.

That’s a lot of people, a heck of a lot of people all of voting age, many of whom will have kids who were not included in the count of the net excluded.

A teacher came onto the the phone and said that children without home access are at a greater disadvantage than other kids, she seemed to think that not having home access can be detrimental to the future prospects of these children when compared to a child that does. But the teacher had a valid point; she claimed that there is an educational divide growing in this country and so far it does not seem to be recognised as such.

A gentleman caller (Ken Whaley) actually said that he was ‘sick of hearing about the internet on other forms of media’:

It’s talked about as though it’s a free service which everybody has free access to and it’s not..

He points out that he finds the idea of the net quite interesting and would love to try it out, but the cost of a computer and monthly connection fees are too great for his income, I can relate to that because if it wasn’t for Stef I would be hard pressed to have net access myself.
Yes, you could walk to the library, but you have time restrictions there and the equipment is limited – you couldn’t participate in a podcast and in some libraries you can’t upload or download files because they don’t allow portable hardware to be used for fear of viruses.keep warm keep well campaign poster

It’s an undeniable truth that some people are being excluded by cost as opposed to apathy.
I personally know of three families that received their very first computer this year, 2 of those computers were second hand units cobbled together from parts donated by friends so that their children could keep up with the other kids – not to get ahead, just to keep up.

It’s not only educationally that these families suffer, people excluded by cost from the targeted campaigns of the government will have fewer options than those with access to that information.
Some government posters only have a website address on them as far as further information goes – this ‘Keep Warm Keep Well’ poster is just an example and it’s targeted at the very people who, according to the aforementioned ONS surveys, statistically have never used the net or are unlikely to have access.

So what’s being done by the government to see that these people and their families do not fall behind in this age of information overload? I’m afraid I couldn’t begin to guess.
From all available evidence it seems the government are only just coming to grips with the net themselves so boxing it up for the general public is a task largely left to the private sector.
There are plans and trials in motion across the UK for free public wireless access, but this is coming under fire from various health groups because of the growth in numbers of people suffering from electrosensitivity, so far these groups have not proven very effective at stalling those plans but the arguments are persuasive so it’s a case of ‘wait and see’.

It just makes you think though, many of us take the internet for granted because we use it daily; it’s easy to forget that not everyone can afford it or even know what a fabulous tool it can be.

4 thoughts on “The internet as a means of exclusion

  1. K. Restoule

    I can relate as well. The first computer in the family home was my own, which I purchased with money I inherited. Needless to say my family is in a different position, when my mom now sends me e-mail jokes (and i constantly beg her to stop).

    I know there are people who are offline and they are being left behind, and this is not a good thing.

  2. Jay

    These are all very good points. I remember in grade 9 we were obliged to take typing and I was the only kid who didn’t have a computer at home, so I was way behind the others. Now with the internet I imagine the gap is just widening.

  3. debambam

    I have to remind Zoe on a daily basis that having a computer, let alone the internet is something that she is lucky to have….the same as clean water, a family to love her and many other things. Not having it at home isn’t so much of a disadvantage to her peers at the moment, but once she hits high school, that will all change.
    This thing called the internet has certainly changed our society forever, and I think sometimes, not for the betterment of all….great post love!
    Cheers, Kelly

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