To web or not to web

Not everyone is connected to the web. According to a poll by Ofcom in the UK, there are people who don’t want to be connected. Of the 30% of the UK population not connected to the internet almost half of them or 42%, said they have no interest or need for the internet. This self-excluded group tend to be older or retired and have never used or owned a computer. Not making use of the internet for these folks makes perfect sense. They have used other methods all their lives to consume their news and gather information and connect with friends and family. If it works for them, why change? The concern is that they will become disconnected as government and financial and health services move online away from traditional methods. For the time being it would be important in continuing providing two channels of communication.

Included in the group not connected, 30% said they  couldn’t afford a computer or broadband connection. Ofcon’s suggestion was to provide subsidies. Cheap computers and low broadband fees. This is a reasonable proposal. There are a few perspectives on the digital divide. One is based on age, where we take it for granted that younger people are more connected to technologies like computers and the internet than older people. That’s a fair assessment. But what about the people, young or old, who can’t afford to have a computer or an internet connection. Not just in third-world or developing nations but even in western societies. This is directly related to poverty in highly developed nations in North America and Europe. When food and housing consume our income there is little to no access to computers and the internet.

There hasn’t been a similar study conducted in Canada but based on CRTC numbers we are a fairly connected country in terms of access to internet. The disconnected groups based on age and financial status would be the same here and most likely anywhere in the world. What will happen to the folks in Canada who aren’t connected? Either by choice or by circumstance? Should the government step in and subsidise those in economic stress? In homes with children this may be worthwhile and should be considered an investment in the future of Canada.


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