'The future is already here,' one commentator once said. 'It's just unevenly distributed.' But in a challenging post about the digital divide one view is that surely much of the debate is now over?
I turn on the news this morning to hear that HMRC are going to be closing 137 offices and opening new regional centres.
How did I react to that? I said 'oh ok,' to myself and carried on eating my breakfast.
How did the BBC react? With an interview posing a number of questions, followed by the big hitter – but what about all those older people that can’t use the internet?
Seriously, can we all just get a grip?
We have to change our services; we have to become as efficient as possible. Neither central government nor local government have the funds to carry on as we are – added to this I think I’d be safe to say the majority of people don’t want us to carry on as we are.
We need to transform our services for the future, not for today. Between January and March this year, 86 per cent of adults in the UK had used the internet in the last three months. That’s staggering in my opinion.
Yes it is true that those over 75 have far lower use of the internet and it is also true that we should make sure our services are accessible to all. But, they are not not accessible because they have been moved online.
But older people can’t use the internet (if I read that one more time, I literally might dig out my old commodore 64 and sling it at the person who says it.) Do old people suddenly become useless? Did they not manage to be some of the most adaptable resilient people I have ever had the privilege of meeting, and yet somehow it’s acceptable to say they can’t use the internet?
Stop it, just stop it! My gran – in law, she is 94 and guess what, she uses the internet. She emails, she books her holidays and wait for it, even has an Instagram account which she loves. She does all this from her Hudl. Is she one of a kind, no – my mother and auntie (one an iPad fan, the other a Hudl) spend no end of hours on Pinterest, using messenger, twitter, shopping, booking doctors appointments, and using it even helped my mother quit smoking – so significant health benefits too!
And I don’t just have an amazing tech savvy family, I’m not one of a kind, I talk to friends who all have similar stories about their own families.
We need to stop getting hung up about the digital divide. It’s not that older people can’t use internet, yes of course there will be a few exceptions, but for christ sake, what we need to do is improve the way we help people access it and learn new skills.
Us slighter younger folk in my family have spent time showing how to use it, explaining the benefits and answering lots of their questions and why wouldn’t we? After all it was my mum who taught me to cook, drive, tie my shoe laces, how to wrap Christmas presents properly, so it’s no big deal for me to show her and take the time to help her learn something.
We were not all born with the skills we need to live in this amazing world, we learn them and are still learning them. So please, shut up about the digital divide and how older people can’t use the internet. Yes they can and what we need to do is concentrate on giving them the skills to do so, rather than discard them and put them into a box that has a big label ‘too old to learn something new!’
Natalie Corney is a communications manager in local government.