Dis-connected by Oli (April 7th)
Although it comes in a variety of forms, one of the popular messages on social media today is:
“Older generations had to fight in the war, we just have to stay inside, sit on the sofa and watch Netflix videos all day”.
Admittedly for some people this isn’t too far from the truth (I won’t name any suspects) but this attitude is really reliant on the assumption that everyone has access to internet today.
In fact, tens of thousands of people in the UK and a whole lot more worldwide do not have access to internet in their own homes. Of those that do have broadband or mobile network internet, many have terrible speeds and poor reliability. Finally, a huge number of adults and older people have limited confidence using phones and computers and are therefore restricted in what they have access to.
Now at this point I have to make a disclaimer that in addition to my work at McPin, I run an educational project with people who access mental health services, helping with their computers and mobile phones. So digital inclusion has been one of my priorities for some time, but the COVID-19 lockdown has made this problem even more important than ever.
The reality is that the internet is so much more than just Netflix (no disrespect to Tiger King). It’s the ability to work from home, to see family and friends on a video call, to manage finances and access essential services, to order food online and get medical information. Without a good internet connection, a good device and adequate proficiency and knowledge all of these things are off limits.
The current situation is a wake-up call that digital inclusion is not a just a “nice to have” but an essential right for all.