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Martha's manifesto

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:27 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

Who could argue with a plan to get 10 million people online to enjoy the social and economic benefits already available to other users of the internet? And who could fail to be impressed by the passion with which Martha Lane Fox is pursuing this cause? But, confronted with her Manifesto for a Networked Nation which she's presenting to the prime minister today in her role as UK "digital champion", the cynics will have a couple of reasonable questions - should we really be forcing people online if they've no interest in the web, and where's the money to make this happen?

Martha Lane FoxThe manifesto puts forward a convincing case. It shows that, of the 10 million people who are not online, four million are amongst the poorest in Britain. Unsurprisingly, it's people over 65 who are least likely to be online - but a telling graph in the document shows that just under 50% of these "nonliners" earn less than £11,500 a year. The pledge now is to get everyone of working age online by the end of this Parliament, so that they will be able to compete more effectively for jobs when they're in the workforce, and enjoy the benefits of the web once they retire.

But quite a high proportion, when questioned in a recent survey about why they didn't use the internet, said simply "it's not for me". So why force it on them? Well, the document goes on to make a social and economic argument that getting everyone online will benefit both them and the nation.

It says 90% of new jobs require basic internet skills, and a lot of those jobs are only advertised online. It points out that households that are online are getting better deals from retailers, banks and utilities. Children who have internet access at home do better at school and their parents are able to communicate more effectively with teachers - though I'm not clear whether enough research has been done to prove this. And for a hard-pressed government, delivering services online could provide a better quicker way to reach people, and could save money, if it's done correctly.

There are plenty of statistics sprinkled across the report - "if just 3.5% of unemployed non-internet users found a job by getting online it would deliver a net economic benefit of £560m" - but one number seems to be missing. I can't find anywhere an estimate of what it will cost to achieve the manifesto's pledge by 2015.

It's clear that Martha Lane Fox is hoping that much of the work can be done by the private and voluntary sectors. She's asking firms to come up with packages that would enable people to get online for an upfront fee of around £50, and says people should be able to get "easy and affordable" access to the internet, in the same they get access to water, electricity or gas.

There are also, she believes, plenty of things the government can do to encourage wider take-up of the internet which don't involve spending money. Controversially, some of them may involve making some services available exclusively online, giving people no alternative but to use the internet.

But it's hard to see how the pledge of universal web access for the UK workforce - which may well be backed by the prime minister later today - can be fulfilled without some government money. The trouble is, one of the key areas for spreading the message, the education system, is facing severe cuts in its capital spending.

Little noticed in last week's announcement about the ending of the Building Schools for the Future scheme was the fact that 10% of the money in BSF projects is ring-fenced for ICT schemes. Now we've seen that a lot of that money hasn't perhaps been spent very wisely in the past - but some of it has gone towards Home Access schemes which bring computers and an internet connection to poorer families. It's not clear to me now what happens to these schemes, and to local authority-funded internet centres which are helping to teach people about the joys of the web.

So while we will hear plenty of warm words from Downing Street today about the importance of digital inclusion, listen out too for any mention of money to make it happen. Still, in Martha Lane Fox they have appointed someone who won't be afraid to go public if she sees any backsliding. On Twitter yesterday she mentioned a conversation with a journalist about her Manifesto For A Networked Nation. The journalist was apparently "v int. in what govt will do diff. and when" and Ms Lane Fox's response was "me too. wont let them wriggle :) ".

Mind you Martha, if by 2015 your manifesto has proved to be full of empty promises, we won't let you wriggle either.

PS.I discussed these plans on the Today programme this morning before Martha Lane Fox was interviewed about them.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    My Mum & Dad used to say it's not for me - with slow boot times then dial-up time I could see why people might agree. With modern "always on" broadband and quick starts from standby, information is there when you want it, and first Mum, and now Dad are always on the PC, catching up with news, emailing the relatives, searching for crossword clues etc.

    They are still a bit worried about the implications of Facebook, but other than that, fit in well with the rest of our IT literate family.
    I just use remote desktop software now and then to keep things in line when odd messages that frighten them pop-up!

    Ms Fox needs to make sure that some of the "not interesteds" really see how PCs and the internet are today, both in terms of value for money, and ease of use.

  • Comment number 2.

    Not everyone wants to be online, why should people who dont want to be online have it forced down their throats.

    I went offline for a year, 18 months ago, I didnt have any problems and to be honest reclaimed some of my previously taken for granted life.

  • Comment number 3.

    Is the real agenda one of making sure everyone is using the same security service monitored communications network?

  • Comment number 4.

    My parents are in their late 70's, retired and can easily afford the best computer and internet, etc, but do not want it. They know all about computers, we show them stuff all the time and my father used one before retiring, but they still do not want one. They complain about TV programmes that say go on line to see the website for further information, they would prefer Ceefax.
    You cannot force people who have no interest in going on line to do it and Martha Lane Fox needs to wise up to this.
    My eldest son is a fully qualified Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and, as a family, we are always on line, but it is not for my parents or for my mother in law.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is a ridiculous notion. Why can't people understand that some people just choose not to use a computer? Computers and the internet are not a basic human right and are in no way essential to our day-to-day life. Put things into perspective - we are constantly hearing about how many children live in poverty in this country. I am sure they would choose three good meals a day and a new coat and shoes each winter before they choose the internet.

    Equally, there are plenty of people who simply choose not to use computers. My brothers-in-law do not own a computer and have no desire to use the internet. They are self-employed skilled manual workers - all their supplier bills come through the post and they pay their bills by cheque or card. Their books are done in a traditional ledger and are taken to their accountant in person. Their invoices are handwritten on headed paper (purchased from a traditional printing company) and posted to their customers. Neither they nor any of their customers or suppliers have an issue with the wway they work. The only person that takes issue is their accountant, because his life would be made so much easier if their accounts were emailed over on an Excel spreadsheet. My brothers-in-law maintain that they pay him enough, so they aren't going to make his job any easier. Why should their way of running their business be changed because someone in authority thinks that society will benefit if everyone is online. It would only cost them unnecessary money and complicate things for them. Why do people make it their business to force technology on people who are happy to work without it?

  • Comment number 6.

    Anyone remember the 'computers within reach' scheme of the early 2000's. I used to help out at a computer reuse/recycling organisation who had been approached by government to get refurbished equipment into the community to bridge the digital divide. All rather faded away when somebody was expected to burden the weight of technical support which would have been considerable.
    Today we have more devices that aren't desktop computers that allow Internet access (phones, iPad, TV's).
    We need a much better infrastructure (so much of the UK still can't get broadband Internet and speeds vary wildly) and wider access to free and low cost WiFi Internet (with appropriate controls to stop abuse) in our towns and cities could go some way to encouraging the wider Internet use as a common resource open to all.

  • Comment number 7.

    The hard benefits quoted (£560m) seem flawed. Its based on people finding jobs who otherwise wouldn't. But this assumes that those posts wouldn't have been filled. All that happens is that the ex-nonliners will now have a better chance of geticng a job. This is a worthy aim, but it doesn't actually increase the the number of jobs available.

  • Comment number 8.

    my parents are not interested in the internet
    why should they be forced to use it
    they prefer face to face contact or a paper trail they control

  • Comment number 9.

    Isn't this just more nanny state stuff taking away people's liberty to choose? The Tories like to paint New Labour as interfering and nannying (which was warranted), but this just shows their hypocrisy too.

  • Comment number 10.

    It'll be good if the government backs internet access as an essential part of modern life (along with the EU's movement towards declaring access a universal right)

    For one thing hopefully it will stop the government allowing the recording industry to kick people off the internet and instead mean that the recording industry has to start working in the 21st century.

  • Comment number 11.

    'should we really be forcing people ... if they've no interest ..., and where's the money to make this happen?'

    There's is something to this notion. But I guess some of 'us' get to wriggle more than others.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have to confess to a vested interest here as I am an IT tutor and I frequently teach some of the people in question how to use a computer and to access the Internet and email, so my answer may surprise you, a resounding NO!

    It is absolutely true that the people I teach get benefits from learning these skills and many of them fell into the "I am too old" or "It's not for me category". But they came to me voluntarily when they were ready. The internet IS for everyone and no one is too old. Anyone can learn to use a computer.

    But NO ONE should be forced by strong arm tactics or manipulated circumstance to learn. In time it will be considered normal for everyone to do it any way just as most people today consider it normal to use a phone or drive a car. They were not forced to do these things and there are alternatives.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm not sure that I fully follow the logic of the statement "if just 3.5% of unemployed non-internet users found a job by getting online it would deliver a net economic benefit of £560m". In the current economic climate and jobs market, it seems unlikely that there are unfilled vacancies with a net benefit to the economy of £560m. I would have thought the stronger argument is that of equality of access.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's inevitable that some of the people who "don't want" to go on-line are of that opinion as they "don't know what they're missing". They probably also thought they'd never want a TV, never want a microwave and never want a mobile phone.

    That being said though, it seems that this government are quick to forget the mistakes of the last government. Remember what happened when Labour wanted 50% of school leavers to attend university? Enjoy your piles of debt and your McJob.

  • Comment number 15.

    Fixing problems with PCs and internet access can be very time consuming - and therefore very expensive if a professional is involved. Even intelligent, IT literate, users have little idea how to fix the simplest problems.

    PCs need to be packaged as cheap push-button "appliances" like a TV. Problems with the internet conection should only require a simple 'phone call like a rare gas, electricity, etc supply problem. The maintenance of cars, radio, television, etc have all evolved to that stage of user "simplicity", or "ignorance", - but home internet access has not.

  • Comment number 16.

    People are of course entirely free to live without a computer, as they are free to live without a telephone or a fridge. What they can't then do is expect the rest of us to run around after them (or, more to the point, spend money) in order to support them in their choice.

    My mother-in-law has finally got online in her mid-seventies because she's found that her church circulates most of the information she needs as email, and no-one is prepared to print it out and hand-deliver it any more. She previously complained endlessly that supermarket home delivery and Amazon only offered their services via web access (rather than phones) and it ``wasn't fair'' because she ``didn't want to use a computer''. Well, I pointed out, they don't want your business, then, and they aren't losing any sleep over it. It's not as though there was some pre-existing supermarket-by-phone business that the computer drove out of business, either.

    There are issues of inclusion for people with disabilities (although of course in many cases the computer is enabling in those situations), poverty, and deep rural isolation. There are also issues of training and the horrors of maintaining Windows systems without technical help (my parents and my in-laws use Macs, which require somewhat less support, but of course cost substantially more at the outset). But my sympathy for people for whom these aren't issues, but who nonetheless simply opt to opt out, is approximately zero. They've made a choice, and if that choice has negative consequences, they should make different choices.

    Online shopping is a key enabler for older people to remain in their own houses, and removes one of the reasons why the loss of a driving license can be so crippling. Email, IM and video conferencing reduce social isolation. Elderly people claiming they won't use computers merely joins debit cards, pound coins, microwave ovens and much else in the ``it were all fields around here'' school of self-immolating refusal to take advantage of progress.

  • Comment number 17.

    Videos of Martha Lane Fox and Professor Tanya Byron talking about the importance and benefits that the internet can provide to the most disadvantaged people in the UK.

    Free to watch online: http://www.21stcenturychallenges.org/challenges/digital-divide/media-gallery/video/

    (Rory Cellan-Jones chaired the discussion)

  • Comment number 18.

    The problem with this approach is one of confused causality. There is an assumption that people are disadvantaged because they are not on-line. I would guess that they are not on-line because they are 'disadvantaged' (I'm using the term disadvantaged in the broadest possible sense). The real digital divide is not access to the internet, but the wealth, knowledge, skills and education that go behind it.

    Throwing a few (million) pounds to give the UK the best communications infrastructure in the world won't make a lot of difference where people aren't well educated or can't afford a laptop. Deal with those problems, and the digital divide vanishes.

    This approach has the added benefit of still giving people the choice on whether they cross that divide.

    Of course, as anyone who's tried to implement any sort of computer solution knows, hardware problems are relatively easy to fix compared to dealing with people issues.

  • Comment number 19.

    James Rigby wrote: "The hard benefits quoted (£560m) seem flawed. Its based on people finding jobs who otherwise wouldn't. But this assumes that those posts wouldn't have been filled. All that happens is that the ex-nonliners will now have a better chance of geticng a job. This is a worthy aim, but it doesn't actually increase the the number of jobs available."

    Not sure it’s flawed at all. If there are vacancies then they have clearly not been filled so helping a wider range of people compete for those jobs provides a better selection for the employer of, hopefully, more relevant people, which improves the company workforce quality. However, there is nothing to stop Job Centre staff doing that matching work now using their own internet systems then telling the unconnected unemployed where to go for the job prospect...

    More net connections certainly increases the number of jobs available as staff are needed to provide the connections, create and retail the systems and then fill the after-sales service posts.

    Lastly, for the elderly, who are the least likely group to be connected at the moment, connection has health and communication benefits in that their homes and health can be monitored remotely over the net by family or professionals.

  • Comment number 20.

    Out with it. Had a Labour government proposed something like this, you'd all be screaming about "nanny state" and "social engineering", and yet so far only one comment has made that accusation...or is it all right when a Tory government does it?

  • Comment number 21.

    "... should we really be forcing people online if they've no interest in the web..." Who is forcing anyone to go online? If someone chooses not to own or use a computer, nobody can force them to buy one. But surely, for those who have a computer or want to have one and want to use the web, it can only be a good thing to ensure that they have Internet access. I am 69 years old and was persuaded to buy a computer 10 years ago, after years of insisting that I would never use one. Now, I realize the benefits that a computer and the Internet can bring and cannot think of my life without them.

  • Comment number 22.

    How ridiculous to assume people are going to be forced to use the internet. What is important is making access available to all so they have the choice.
    The elderly who are not interested, (and lets not pretend that all old people dont use the internet), will of course die out in the short term.
    Middle aged luddites who want to pretend they have no need of the interned and whinge on about the loss of letter writing and the dangers of social networking can go off and isolate themselves along with those people who like to think they are somehow better because they dont own a television.
    They're a deluded minority who we need not worry about.
    The concern is with families with children unable to afford access.
    The information poor!
    In the 21st Century public libraries are a poor substitute for online access and the world our children are growing into will see online awareness an everyday and necessary part of their lives.
    Lets just be certain that those poorest in our society are not being given yet another hurdle to get over when trying to improve their situation by restricted access to an important part of modern life.

  • Comment number 23.

    Every action has an opposite and equal reaction, and all that jazz.

    I'm all for the internet, but I've never understood these people who champion it as is if it's a god given right or the saviour of businesses everywhere. More people online using it for shopping and commerce: good for the internet warehouses shipping goods, bad for the high street as just one well-worn example.

    The tone of the piece is right: pimping the economic benefits can only be done if the economic losses are equally measured and I'm not convinced they can be until the damage is already done.

  • Comment number 24.

    Of course we should all be 'on line', just as we all have to read, write and count. It is not even a political issue, just a fact of life in the 21st Century. There are many of us 'oldies' already switched on to internet banking, email etc. Those who aren't able will have to be helped, just as we have numeracy and literacy help for those less fortunate than ourselves.

  • Comment number 25.

    My parents, dyed in the wool Tories, have said they do not want the internet. They have shut their minds to it, in the same way they would never be persuaded to vote other than Tory. They are 79 and 82. I know my dad would get so much out of using the internet, but he is probably frightened of it, can't muster the concentration, would forget his passwords, how to operate it - he barely watches TV now because he's too tired to concentrate.
    My in-laws actually want the internet. They've heard by using skype you can see who's calling, for free no less. They can see the benefits. Their world is spending hours on the phone to family which is very important to them. We have discouraged them from getting the internet because they are partially sighted & partially disabled. They are not accurate with a pen never mind clicking a mouse. If it went wrong (as IT often does) they would be stuck or need a distant family member (me) to visit to sort it out. As to explaining what a phishing scam entails it is not worth trying to start explaining. They would end up losing credit card details, buying stuff they don't need. They love a warm house so they would at some stage enter "hot legs" into Google and probably get a surprise!
    My sister, 53 this year, is maddeningly without e-mail address. She also doesn't want an e-mail address because whe spends her life ferrying her teenage kids around so can always be reached by text. She says she would never look at e-mails as she is too busy. Bright educated lady, but no need for parts the net (she does shop on the net tbf).
    Just thought I would include a few real life case studies above to show that just because you can do something (use the internet) doesn't mean you should! (or even want to)

  • Comment number 26.

    I've been using the Internet pretty much every day since 1995, but fail to see that getting everyone 'online' will be a net improvement to society. Most of the Internet usage by ordinary people is rubbish, most people seem to just use facebook as a sort of extension to mobile phone txt messaging. A lot of the online retailing stuff is messy, crap, prone to not working, and even if it does work today, might not work with your current browser in a years time cause the developers of the website think it's obsolete and uncool. There's not even a decent micropayment system, paypal is about the best there is. Email is unreliable because of spam. There's no decent universal way to transfer files between people, and if there was people would say it was criminal because it could be used to share copyrighted material. If you want to tackle social exclusion, how about making it easier for poorer people to own cars, e.g. abolishing car tax on old cars and increasing MOT intervals.

  • Comment number 27.

    @Tony #22

    > The concern is with families with children unable to afford access.

    Your Dickensian view of this country is a little misguided :) If you went to the homes of the "poor" in this country you'd be surprised at what you see. Poverty in the UK is only having 1 PS3 and plasma TV that's less than 40"s. The "poor" of this country smoke themselves through 40 fags a day and drink enough to dilute the Gulf of Mexico's oil slick. The last thing the poor have to worry about in this country is money.

    There have already been schemes where the people you speak of are given cheap computers etc to help with their children's school work and they were mainly sold off immediately by the families.

  • Comment number 28.

    After having been on the net for 15 years, I've decided to remove myself from it. It used to be a faithful source of information and a method of updating and buying software for me. Now, the usual tripe, weirdos, propaganda and mis-information is making it a place to be avoided.
    It has now become a method for the government to spy on everyone and for people to air their dirty lives and habbits. It also allows for a CONSTANT bombardment of advertising TRASH and trivial mob explotism by sports, sex and booze. The net's destiny was to become a reflection of society, and it has. It's sad, disgusting and although I cancelled my connection with Sky over 2 months ago and monies have been repaid to me, I can't get them to shut it off. I don't even want it for NOTHING!

  • Comment number 29.

    It is neither a question of wealth nor age, but a question of ability matched to the state of the art. I was delighted when my mum decided to go online about 12 years ago. She was about 78. The irony is that she hated windows 7 so much she asked me to install an OEM copy of XP on her machine. She's been through the windows 98 DUN connectoid thing, the firewall/windows 98 sharing network bindings thing, and is probably more seasoned than many people in their forties, but she is an exception. There will be people who will never go online, in the same way that some people refused gas and water on tap, and an electrical connection. As Thomas Kuhn pointed out, ideas don't die but their proponents do. Similar reasoning applies to uptake.

  • Comment number 30.

    Come off it Aidy! You can't stereotype the 'poor' like that. There may well be some or even many who fill your description, but it is unpardonably cynical to insinuate that everyone is tarred with the same brush.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think the all pervasive Internet use is going to happen anyway. In Western Europe, as in the USA, the universal use of the new 'applicance' - the classic computer as we know it today, along with cell connected services originally invented for mobile phones, will certainly dominate all domestic financial transactions and those long searches just for information. From Tax Returns to Toilet Rolls, all goods and services trading will need direct access to the network or to have someone who can do that. Innovative micro technology is unstoppable and to a certain extent it will become easier in time; more intuitive user interfaces and computer architectures that are fully hidden from its user.

    I'm writing this on a keyboard that was invented for mechanical typewriters almost 100 years ago. As soon as this is universally replaced by something else (touch and voice), things will accelerate. By that time I will be very old, but having the advantage of a career with computer technology makes it easier. BUT - as we get older we resist change for change sake - we ask the question 'why?'. Change becomes tedious. It will be a personal quest for everyone regardless of age to stay connected, whatever that means. And it really doesn't need more champions than the population can cope with - just encouragement and provisions that are robust. Once the Internet has replaced all but a few public libraries, the population will have become fully dependent.

    Let's hope there will be a Minister for the Internet, and it is properly funded as part of society.

  • Comment number 32.

    The simple fact is millions are living on a hand to mouth basis. They simply cant afford the internet.

  • Comment number 33.

    "They probably also thought they'd never want a TV, never want a microwave and never want a mobile phone."
    Aidy, we have no TV, microwave or mobile phone. 2PCs and a Mac laptop though.

  • Comment number 34.

    Actually if I were Martha Lane Fox I would do something radical.

    Currently many ordinary internet users sign up to some ISP as part of a bundle of TV / Internet / email and/or whatever. They then end up tied to a particular ISP because if they move they 'lose' their email addresses and would have to advise umpteen companies, government agencies and the like of their 'new' email addresses.

    So the current system isn't all that great for ordinary users.

    But, if the email parts of the packages were to be removed, so that people had different email service providers, e.g. yahoomail, Gmail, MSN or whoever and the internet (or 'bundled' services) were provided by BT, Virgin, AOL or whoever, then the consumer would have more freedom to move around.

    O.K. I know many more sophisticated users do this already, but that isn't the people she's trying to tempt 'on-line'.

    h and also, some ISPs demand in their contracts that they be able to contact you via your email address with them, e.g. Blobby Media might officially notify you of service or price changes at your.name@blobby.co.uk.

    But all that could be changed

  • Comment number 35.

    I have looked at my web use and how it has changed since I first signed up with the Lineone offer that was pushed through the Times newspaper many years ago.

    Then I used it for emails and some chatting, perhaps the odd bit of research. It was not much use for my job as it was too slow for the huge audio files I generated.

    Now I am on 20meg broadband I use it for my business. I am a composer working from home and my clients like to connect and transfer data with me via the internet.

    However, the vast majority of conversations, briefings and so on are conducted by telephone. My clients never text me and emails tend to be used in a similar way as fax and previously letter - as hard copy confirmations and briefs. It hasn't changed the way I work, just sped it up. Which may or may not be an advantage. I am now expected to turn round compositions at a very high speed because the connections allow instant (ish) transfer of data. Does that mean I do a better or worse job?

    I have tried to embrace the "Cloud" by moving a lot of my work online through the Google Apps suite. However, I have just started writing a book, and having spent many hours working on syncing Word with Google Apps, playing with MS Skydrive and other mad variations, it suddenly struck me that why the hell do I need it in the cloud in the first place? It is complicating my way of working enormously and, lets face it, most books ever written were done on a typewriter or pen and paper.

    So, I have scrubbed all that and am working locally.

    Outside of business, I have a blog that nobody reads and I update with the occasional recipe and pretty photos of my food. (foodloversdiary.com, if you are bored).

    I have Facebook and Linkedin, but I could scrap those and no one would notice.

    Because I also compose songs (my normal business is jingles), I have several websites covering that lot.

    I have entries about me on IMDB and assorted other places.

    One way or another I am VERY connected.


    But, despite all that, if it were not for my work, I would have almost no use for the internet at all these days.

    I am bored of it. I used to update one blog daily and get thousands of visitors. But, it wasn't achieving anything really and was a pointless vanity exercise. (As is writing this now)

    I can design websites, work proficiently with several Content Management Systems (including putting together the templates) and can even set up a server (though I would never do that for anyone but myself - I am not a sysadmin)

    But what do I need all this for?

    My life, like the vast number of people out there, revolves, or SHOULD revolve round my family.

    I have realised that the internet has become involved in our lives to such an extent that it actually has threatened the cosiness that a family should have. My partner, who spends more time online than I for social purposes, has also seen this and has bought a dog to try and pull the family together again - give us all a common interest. We are not a broken family, we are pretty typical of many families out there who have more than one computer.

    The book I am writing is aimed at older teenagers. I have set it in the mid-seventies because that is when I was an older teenager. There was no internet or PCs at that time. The trannny radio was our technological high-point (the Walkman was not out yet.)

    I can't help it, but I am comparing my life then to that of my teenage kids now.

    We had less in the seventies. We were not as comfortable. Our lives were less padded out and safe. There was still extreme poverty in this country of a type you rarely see now. There was a lot of uncertainty and political unrest. But I can't shake the feeling that my life as a teenager was fuller and more complete than now. I inhabited a much smaller world, more confined to a set geographical area. I had less knowledge of the rest of the world, though that knowledge was just down the road at the library, but, to be honest, this was not knowledge I actually needed.

    My world was MY world - I knew it and I either loved or I hated it. But it was mine and I shared it with people that I could see, touch, and learn to understand.

    I think the internet is amazing, but do we actually need it?

    In 1997 I would say it was a new world. In 2010, I would say it is a sideshow that we have allowed to become the main event and is distracting us from what is really important - our own, unique, small yet important lives.

    So, people should always be made to feel that they DON'T need to be online.

    Using the internet should be the choice you make - you should not be forced onto it and you should definitely not be made to feel like you have dropped out if you don't have it.

    Lane-Fox should have it explained to her that people's local, offline lives are the most important and vital part of living. If they want to use the internet to connect to others, that is fine - but there is no pressing need and they should not be made to feel inadequate if they want nothing to do with it.

    As for benefiting the nation - if the internet is such a panacea, why are our lives now more complicated, more expensive, use more energy, and have become simply more messy?

    I used to stick messages for my family in a small book by the phone. Why is it better that we have to own several thousand pounds worth of electronics, learn a multitude of different techniques, have to reinvent the way we talk and communicate to do exactly the same thing?

    I swear if Lane Fox was asked to hammer in a nail, she would raise several million pounds of investment, employ a ton of highly intelligent researchers, make sure she had lush new offices and a brand new Porche before then presenting a long, meaningless proposal to the government on how the final result of the nail being embedded in the wood medium was achieved.

  • Comment number 36.

    Surveys show that it's the elderly, the socially excluded and those with few qualifications are most likely to not be Internet users.

    5 million adults lack functional literacy, the level needed to get by in life and at work.
    Over 7 million adults lack functional numeracy skills. Many people particularly the elderly have poor memories compared with their younger selves.
    We are also not all of equal intelligence, abilities or with an equally strong desire to learn.

    Given how many people have major problems reading, filling in forms and with basic maths (Once in a charity shop it took three people to work out how much change to give me from ten pounds – the item cost 75p!) why be surprised that so many are disengaged from technology?

    Not everyone is naturally tech savvy. There are all kinds of reasons why people attempt to learn Internet skills and then abandon it; or avoid attempting to gain them.

    We who use computers on a regular basis forget just how many steps we have taken, how many hours over the years we have put in, to get to the level we now are at.
    And the Internet (and technology generally) can be a big confusing place; there is always something new to learn about or innovation occurring.

    For some computers and the Internet must be as confusing an experience as moving to a strange city; one where eveyone speaks a different language too.

    For some in society learning to use the Internet, computers etc requires a much greater investment of time and money than they are prepared to give - or is simply too confusing and difficult.

    Given I believe there will always be a sizable number of digital refuseniks I have concerns that the drive to put state services online whilst closing conventional outlets such as Post Offices will only deepen social exclusion and inequality.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sorry, that was a rather long post!

  • Comment number 38.

    26. arny5000 wrote:

    I've been using the Internet pretty much every day since 1995, but fail to see that getting everyone 'online' will be a net improvement to society.


    It won't be - but it will be administratively convenient and cheap for various government departments, agencies and local authorities because using traditional methods of communicating - i.e. letters and phone calls are labour intensive and therefore expensive.

    Why do you think, really, that you can now buy your tax disc online or complete your tax return online? It isn't about customer service - it's about administrative efficiencies.

  • Comment number 39.

    What really BUGS me though, is that it's painted white..."It'll be good for you. Get cheaper offers...be able to do business without going out" You can't replace a one-to-one chat with this junk. For those solely motivated by materialism and lazyness...it's perfect. Yes, I'm calling you lazy materialists. The internet will completely errode direct physical/verbal contact.

  • Comment number 40.

    What a waste of money and effort. I use the net every day for work, entertainment and banking however I do not grasp to point behind compelling people with no interest in the net into having to use it. I can't stand Big Brother, soap operas or football and I would be annoyed beyond measure if I was told I had to watch them just because the majority of the population do.

  • Comment number 41.

    The internet is wonderful, but it is only ONE tool. I imagine that Martha Lane Fox, who I doubt has ever done any manual or personal care work, exists in a techno-bubble in the southeast - especially as she fails to understand that whilst the internet is a boon for many, some people can manage their business better offline.

  • Comment number 42.

    People have the right to choose how they communicate - even if that does limit their choices

  • Comment number 43.

    Does it really matter if I don't know who is president of the United States or that a bomb has exploded in Pakistan?

    I don't know what the internet offers other than a plethora of useless information and time wasting blogs.

    I use it to download information for work but I've gone beyond the point of it being useful. It is deteriorating manual skills in a worse way than the drive for literacy ever did.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm far from young but have had the internet since 1996. In these 14 years it went from novelty to utility which means I use it a lot less now. I'm one of these people reluctant to fall into "learned helplessness" by committing myself to any technology.

    I certainly wouldn't commit to a "bundle" for reasons already mentioned: you'll probably lose your emails if you move to another provider.

    The internet has always had traps. Once they were fairly simple viruses but the huge attempts at scamming now are something else. Too many people fall into them. Worse, now, that kids get involved in things their parents don't even known about and, judging by the ongoing problem, presumably don't care about either.

    It's good for a bit of shopping, banking and utility things like looking up reviews on products you're interested in buying. And email. Legitimate downloading is convenient.

    One thing people should beware is the seduction of internet speeds. "Up to xxxx Mbs" is a useless criterion. You might get up to 20Mb on the best of days but don't be surprised to see your downloads progressing at kb speeds. There's also the matter of traffic. Certain times of day, certain events bring hordes of people on line then the response times really do suffer. And your service can go down completely so never depend on it.

    So - don't force it on people if they don't want it. It has its uses but not worth depending on. It's far too overrated as a necessity in our daily lives.

  • Comment number 45.

    The internet is also a good method to manipulate people , politically, with news, marketing and with every temptation imaginable and to get direct, immediate feedback from that. A psychological/criminal profile can be built purely on how you use the internet.
    Pacing and leading are basic hypnosis/mind control techniques, which the internet is FULL of, and which you are completely unaware of being influenced by. If something is painted to be so good for us personally and socially, you should treat it with a LOAD of skepticism.
    Before you think I'm paranoid, you should gain knowledge yourself and then judge.

  • Comment number 46.

    Lolz, teh n00bs are coming! :) (say that to your grandma and see how she reacts!)

    I trust the government will also be:

    * rolling out fast broadband to 100% coverage of the population.
    * providing advice, and tools on how to avoid getting your computer filled with viruses and other nasties.
    * educating everyone about how to avoid above viruses and also phishing and similar scams.
    * increasing the budget for the cybercrime units (if there are any outside the Met)

    Its one thing to give the internet to everyone, but you can imagine how many people given the web will be targetted by conmen, and how many copies of Windows will be quickly infesting the 'net with spam emails and phishing attacks?

    I think its a good idea, but its best to simply let society catch up. The internet and connected home computing is still in its infancy. One day everyone will have a network connection to their TV or phone which will be a lot safer than today's general-purpose PCs that, frankly, you do have to be educated and informed to use.

    All the government needs to do it wait for that technology to become more mainstream, they don't need 'special' advisors telling us how to be like them.

  • Comment number 47.

    Late fee payments and reconnection fees by bt will not encourage the poor to go online and of course unlimited broadband can hardly be unlimited when it's capped nor can bt throttling the download speed be helpful,my last quartely bt bill amounted to £184,£34 of calls I made and a £150 in bt charges along with £19 for late fee payment and reconnection charge

    would you call that good value?

  • Comment number 48.

    What a stupid way of putting it. No one is going to be 'forced' online. What, do you imagine police officers standing behind people to make sure they surf every day? Will people be prosecuted for not going online? Will their fingers be taped onto keyboards?

    Of course not. People will be no more forced online than they are forced to use electricity just because power is universally available. It's an option, and it always will be.

    This is low-grade, sensationalist journalism, and you should be ashamed of it.

  • Comment number 49.

    While I'm an ardent proponent of the internet and various modern technologies to improve our lives (having been online since the mid-90s), I'm not sure this is a good idea. It's like bringing electricity to cavemen - since they don't understand it, they'll be suspicious of it and it must therefore be destroyed. You can already see various examples of the "government is controlling our minds" paranoia that exists just in this comment section - and these are people WITH internet connections.

    If they want to languish in the last century and miss out on the huge benefits that the internet provides, let them. For the rest of us, this money could be better spent on building out a *proper* fibre-to-the-home network (not the Infinity fibre-to-the-cabinet junk BT are pushing), then leasing it out to ISPs and running it as a utility, much like the way electricity or water is supplied.

  • Comment number 50.

    What we have to remember is that this is no different to providing everyone with a mobile phone, and even those who two years ago said they had no need for a mobile, have now got one.

    In ten years when the whole country has a fast net conenction we'll look back and think whatever did we do without it....

  • Comment number 51.

    ‘People will be no more forced online than they are forced to use electricity’ #48

    One concern I have is that many Govt services (obtaining passports, road tax discs etc) are being moved online - and may soon only be available online.

    A lot of companies now only accept job applications via their websites, speculative CVs sent through the post are just binned. (This includes low skilled jobs in supermarkets, factories etc.)

    It does mean if you haven’t got internet skills, the confidence to use it and access to it you are excluding yourself from much that would be useful.
    No-one will hold a gun to your head and ‘force’ you to use it; but if you want to work, have foreign holidays etc internet use could become essential.

  • Comment number 52.

    Payment should be no problem: The Tories can pay for it, they are all rich and have their friendly cronies in banking, so there should be no shortage of cash from them to do this. And if you really want to get everyone online, pay the public for it instead of charging the public. The money can come out of the Tories' pockets. Simples.

  • Comment number 53.

    Everybody wants something that they don't have. Like a mobile phone. They use them to ring their friend who lives next door but one and spend 60 minutes on the phone rather than talk face to face.
    The internet is just the same fad. Lets talk to the friend next door but one over the internet! Or lets find some new friends on the other side of the planet - these friends will last what, less than a week?
    The internet can be a great place to find information, maybe compare mobile phones and insurance, but after 20 years in IT, about 15 of these on the internet, the last few years of the net, has got me switching off more than switching on. I'd rather be out and about having fresh air, exercise, talking to people I want to talk to, rather than going squared eyed.
    I've never Twittered, Facebooked, or any of the other new social sites and fads, and I never will, I don't need them, and 95% of the averge Jo Public don't truthfully need them either, unless they're sad individuals who don't get out enough.

  • Comment number 54.

    Is it me or is our digital future being driven by some one who's only claim to fame is that she managed a company that left shareholders out of pocket. Stepped down the first year it made a profit and watched many of the employees loose a lot of money.

    What credentials does she have to drive our broadband future

  • Comment number 55.

    Its all well and good pushing people onto the internet (whether they like it or not),but before they do that they need to make sure that this country's broadband infrastructure good enough. We are so far behind Japan and Korea,we have a few people who are lucky enough to have fast broadband and many who have slow - yet we pay the same for the service is that fair?. Until this is sorted, Ms Lane Fox is on a serious nonstarter. Is she related to the Lane Fox person who help start the specialist unit (Lane Fox unit) St Thomas Hospital?

  • Comment number 56.

    We have had computers in the house for a good few years and I still prefer to write a letter rather than an e mail . Companies keep trying to get me to give them my bank details to pay over the computer but i will not pay any bills unless i get a paper bill in my hand which can be stamped at the bank. To me a pc is nothing more than a glorified games machine...and a host for all the criminals and rogues on earth to help themselves.Ebay is a perfect example as is paypal. The amount of complaints re the rip offs and phishing that goes on with paypal is incredible.So no thanks.. I remain uninterested in using a toy to run my house.

  • Comment number 57.

    Breaking news: people who cannot afford the internet aren't online. That just makes sense. The internet isn't a basic human right, it's a service, and with all non-public services comes with a price. Declaring that everyone should be online for access to internet-only stuff is equivalent to saying everyone should have Sky Movies because they're missing out on all the best films. While that may be a valid (albeit debateable) point, I like to think that these economically challenged people will be sensibly making the right choice between paying for services such as premium television and internet access or buying food. I for one certainly object to any use of public funds to provide people with services they can easily live without.

  • Comment number 58.

    Costs: phone line, ISP, computer. For those at the poorer end of the spectrum, I imagine on the first is of any particular interest and even then they are more likely to have PAYG phones as they don't require credit checks. The ISP is probably a pretty low priority when compared to food and clothing, and the cost of a PC must be way out of reach.

    Typical of a rich government advisor to assume that everyone can afford to do what she takes for granted.

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm not sure how anyone could be 'forced' online. What they COULD do is encourage people to go online. A lot of people don't go online because (a) it's 'too complicated' (it generally is, at the moment), (b) it's too expensive, and (c) they don't see the point.

    As a way to make things less complicated, there could be simplified devices which only do web browsing - maybe as a set-top box through your TV (a HD TV is fine for good quality web browsing) with a wireless keyboard and built-in ADSL or cable modem. If this was £100 it would be affordable.

    As a way to make it less expensive. Maybe the Govt needs to look at forcing the big providers to offer true 'pay as you go' or a very low usage plan - 500MB/mth for £2-3/mth would cover people who only use it occasionally. If this could be done with no minimum contract, then it could be attractive for people who aren't sure about it. Maybe £5/mth could get you this plus the lease of the aforementioned set-top box.

  • Comment number 60.

    Internet access should not be a right, just as having a telephone, mains electricity, gas or water are not rights.

    However, if the Government are to provide services exclusively online, provision needs to be made to allow access to those sites, free of charge, at all times that the services would otherwise be available to an individual using another means.

    In other words, replacing a paper application form or tax return with an online-only equivalent would mean that, since one can complete the paper form at any time of day or night, the online version must be accessible via a public terminal within a reasonable distance at any time of day or night.

    Until such access is available (or post boxes cease to be 24h accessible), the option of using a paper form by post must always be available.

  • Comment number 61.

    Whoever is 'Martha Lane-Fox?' Having never heard of this lady why is she attempting to influence the Government to waste more of our Public Finances. We are up to our eyes in debt through money wasting after Labour's disasterous years of mismanagement

  • Comment number 62.

    So means tested internet access support?

    Why should I pay for someone to sit at home and play on facebook.

    Provide terminals in Job Centres with restricted access to Monster, Job Site etc. That would be more suitable.

  • Comment number 63.

    Why is it that the government and this technology tzar are determined to alienate the people in the UK who DONT want to have a computer or be online?
    I feel I am forced to be online now because its too difficult NOT to be. Everything I want to do has to go through a website. Oh sure I have benefited from this to a degree, but I have found more and more of my pc time is taken up with maintenance and updates for this that and the other. Frankly, I am sick of it. To this end I am spending less time on the pc, not more. And therein lies the rub, the more time I am forced onto a pc to shop, bank, communicate etc, the less likely I am to do it willingly.It becomes a chore.
    My mother does not want a pc, or to be online, and is increasingly finding it hard to find insurance,to communicate with someone without being referred to a website, or to reserve an item in a shop without being online.
    As she says, who is going to PAY for her to have broadband connected or buy her a pc? or pay her telephony bill each month?
    The government is allowing this farce to continue through this technology tzar and her very harsh terms about social alienation and everyone must do this or that in order to be part of the world etc.. She is treating it like its a disability that must be cured at all costs. This is actually setting up people who dont want to be online 24/7 as a minority group, which is prejudical to say the least. This has to stop, its becoming a witch hunt now with people feeling under pressure to do what they are told to just to conform. I think forcing people to doing everything online is actually more socially isolating than allowing people to get out an interact face to face. Facebook, sorry, that doesnt count as social interaction.

  • Comment number 64.

    I find Martha Lane Fox's proposals rather short sighted.

    She obviously does not realise that the reason 50% of the over 65's are not on the web is because they simply cannot afford to be.

    Government/business want an online society but when it comes to the low-paid (majority of the UK workforce) and those on state pensions/unemployed getting access the elephant in the room is who will pay for it.

    Without internet access being free, i.e. no monthly charges or any other costs involved, those who are not already "online" will never be "online", and until the powers that be grasp that the "problem", if it really is a problem will never be solved.

  • Comment number 65.

    I suppose the Government could email everybody to instruct them to "get on-line"!

  • Comment number 66.

    I am pretty tech savvy (i'm here aren't I), but point blank cannot see the need for 24/7 instant access to everything. My phone makes phone calls!, just what is the point of an Ipad?.
    I also live in the countryside (not deeply rural) so cannot get anything like fast Internet at home or decent Freesat reception. Result - I barely bother with the internet at home, I go to the local village to pay my road tax and buy a newspaper, use a phone to call contractors, BG etc and prefer to see goods before I buy them.
    Until someone coughs up billions to provide hi speed access for EVERYONE
    then the London-centric opinionated dotcom folk should stop telling people how to live their lives....just cos they can't do proper face to face communications ......

  • Comment number 67.

    "Are you a lower class person with no job or no hope? So was I until I discovered "Martha Lane Fox's Patent Internet Elixir". Now I'm a millionaire, with a grand country retreat. Acclaimed across the globe, this catholicon promotes sprightliness, improves humour, leavens melancholy and alleviates baldness. Grand Success Assured!"

  • Comment number 68.

    'if just 3.5% of unemployed non-internet users found a job by getting online it would deliver a net economic benefit of £560m'.

    surly this statistic doesn't make sense!!! One new job can only take one person off unemployment, either directly or indirectly no matter who gets it. if the unemployed non-internet user doesn't go for the job then it is not going to be left vacant. there are only so many jobs and so many unemployed. The only way to make a saving by taking someone off unemployment benefit is to create a new job in the first place.

    this statistic makes the assumption that there is an unfilled vacancy out there for every unemployed person, which is clearly not the case.

    Am I missing something here?

  • Comment number 69.

    My Mum and Dad have a suffieciently good PC for their needs and broadband but despite using the internet email etc at work my Dad, now retired, chooses not to use the internet or email at all. You can give people access but they will not use it if they don't want to.

    on the other side of this, whilst not ideal in rural areas, public libraries offer free internet access to anyone who chooses to register so in towns and cities, why not use the possible funding to support these services and offer a different solution to rural communities. The UK is a diverse place so why should there be a one solution for all policy?

  • Comment number 70.

    I used to be online, but with the poor performance from any ISP to my address then I simply got rid of the landline and the broadband with it.
    The best speeds I was seeing was 250 up and download times which when trying to view anything of videos/media was an absolute nightmare.
    I'm mid 40's so I'm very comfortable with t'internet but the supplier performance is so bad it's simply just not worth the money

  • Comment number 71.

    As an IT professional I recognize the need for people to be less fearful of computer technology, however I also recognise that there are already so many people online that should simply not be. Forcing people who are not prepared, and cannot understand the concepts behind the technology they are using is opening a pandoras box of chaos and confusion, and someone is going to have to clear up the mess and pick up the bill.

  • Comment number 72.

    62. At 12:35pm on 12 Jul 2010, MyVoiceinYrHead wrote:
    So means tested internet access support?

    Why should I pay for someone to sit at home and play on facebook.

    Provide terminals in Job Centres with restricted access to Monster, Job Site etc. That would be more suitable.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Quite frankly the most sensible suggestion so far.

    With the VAT rise due and all other costs going up - i am not feeling as charitable as before and as such am less inclined to see my hard earned taxes spent on some waste of space and their access to the internet.

    you want internet? You pay for it, just like the rest of us.

    I'm sick of seeing people getting a free ride....

  • Comment number 73.

    27. At 10:41am on 12 Jul 2010, Aidy wrote:
    @Tony #22

    > The concern is with families with children unable to afford access.

    Your Dickensian view of this country is a little misguided :) If you went to the homes of the "poor" in this country you'd be surprised at what you see. Poverty in the UK is only having 1 PS3 and plasma TV that's less than 40"s. The "poor" of this country smoke themselves through 40 fags a day and drink enough to dilute the Gulf of Mexico's oil slick. The last thing the poor have to worry about in this country is money.

    There have already been schemes where the people you speak of are given cheap computers etc to help with their children's school work and they were mainly sold off immediately by the families.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Hmn, please dont tarnish all poor families the same thank you very much!
    By the previous governments criteria we were considered poor as my husband is a low wage earner and our income is less than the national average. But the children go to school in clean clothes each day, are fed proper food, we dont drink, we dont smoke, dont go out and dont have a PS3. We do have a plasma tv though because our old one broke down a month ago so we bought a new tv. Since these days all you can get IS plasma or LCD we chose the best one for the household. Sorry if that offends you.
    We dont need government hand outs of pcs or laptops for the children thank you very much, and even if we did, chances are we would refuse it. We like to control the technology our children have access to, and that includes the internet.
    If by your post you actually mean Chav then thats ok, we are not chav, we are low income, but I dont consider us poor. Not everyone who is low income is the sort you describe.

  • Comment number 74.

    There will always be some people that do not want to be online and for the idea of putting some services solely online to force people into a situation whereby they have no choice, is clearly wrong. This actually makes me think with that idea in mind, is Marth the right person to put these proposals and ideas together?. I think not.
    Admittedly I have not read the manifesto, but in my opinion, in 10 - 20 years time this wouldn't be an issue anyway as most of the 40 somethings are already online in one form or another.

    There are varying reasons as to why a lot of these 10 million are not online, but there isn't any reason why we should force them or even help them to get online in some respects. You only have to use the 'FreeView' switchover as a classic example.

    I think what she should have concentrated on was the fact many small businesses haven't got a clue as to the benefits of being online, either with a website or using email as some form of marketing tool. The possibilities are endless after being involved in new media for the past 17 years, I have seen how things have developed and the potential and the doors that could open for SME's is lost most of the time. That is where this should have all started and not with those that choose to either not or afford to go online.

    I think I may read the manifesto...

  • Comment number 75.

    "There are also, she believes, plenty of things the government can do to encourage wider take-up of the internet which don't involve spending money. Controversially, some of them may involve making some services available exclusively online, giving people no alternative but to use the internet. "

    Sometimes people are temporarily without broadband, when I moved last year it took nearly a month to get it installed. If I had been dependent on an online only service I would be stuffed. How does restricting access improve welfare? My late dad was disabled for over 10 years before he died and had internet for about 2 years, he found it frustrating to use as a disabled person and wasn't particularly interested in being online when he could get his entertainment on the telly, his benefits into his bank and his shopping at his local shops.

    We have to remember that people who aren't online may have perfectly valid and unavoidable reasons. Forcing people online to use certain services is purely exclusion.

  • Comment number 76.

    This is no business of Martha Lane Fox, and it is no business of government. What next? "Bottom wiping champion" to make sure we're keeping up with toilet hygiene and not falling victim to the dreaded 'loo paper divide'?

  • Comment number 77.

    ‘My mother does not want a pc, or to be online, and is increasingly finding it hard to find insurance,to communicate with someone without being referred to a website, or to reserve an item in a shop without being online.’

    ‘I think forcing people to doing everything online is actually more socially isolating than allowing people to get out an interact face to face.’ twistywillow 63

    But it saves them money.
    That’s why Post Offices are being closed and big companies also use those revolting call centres.

  • Comment number 78.

    The max broadband we have had is 230kbs during the dead of night otherwise at peak times we are lucky to get 120kbs at best, useful for reading the news other tasks can be painfully slow hardly the life changing wonder of the age.

    Initiatives like this are all well and good until the government spies them as a previously untapped tax cash cow... Remember there was already a proposal to 'tax' every user in order to upgrade the system to superfast broadband for selected areas.

    Finally maybe I am cynical but these schemes are rarely for the benefit of others and there is usually a profit motive in pushing for these schemes ie whats the catch!



  • Comment number 79.

    Any effort springing from whithin the ruling class/government and centered around one brain and aimed at the rest of the society with an effort to impose whatever idea of this one particular brain is absolute violation of the fundemental free will and freedom of every human being, whatever the cause or consequences... !

  • Comment number 80.

    Much comment about the £560m figure. Why? This was clearly a number picked out of the air by Ms Lane Fox to bolster her case. For some utterly incomprehensible reason everything done by the Government these days must have a "business case". Why can't they do something just because "it's the right thing to do and we can afford to do it"?

    The Internet accentuates the advantages of the better-off and the better-educated. Anything that can bring these advantages to the less fortunate is A Good Thing in my book.

  • Comment number 81.

    It depends why people aren't interested.

    If they're not interested because they haven't bothered to find out why it might benefit them then educating them as to these benefits may make them change their mind.

    If they're not interested because there's really nothing there for them, then fair enough.

    But let's be realistic, by moving some government and council services online we can save an absolute fortune, if we no longer have to pay for buildings and pay for staff at these buildings because there's no need for them, then it makes sense to move these services online. Maintaining non-jobs for the sake of a few luddites doesn't really benefit anyone (apart from those in the non-jobs I suppose) when it comes to because we all have to subsidise it.

    I'm all for people having the choice to not have to use the things they don't want to for the most part- but when it costs the rest of us money in having to heavily subsidise the buildings and staff that must exist for them to do things in that way, then we have to re-evaluate the idea of taking away the choice from these people.

  • Comment number 82.

    There is a very worrying civil liberties aspect to all this. Some people, for whatever reason, don't want to be online. Personally, I think they're missing out on a lot of good stuff, but nonetheless I absolutely respect their right to choose not to be online.

    If that right is eroded, that would be worrying. I would not, for example, welcome a future in which I can't get an appointment with my GP if I don't use their online booking system, or can't renew my car tax by any offline method.

  • Comment number 83.

    ERM>>> another reason to bin your computer..More than 15,000 people have been the victims of fraud during the first half of the year, a report indicated.

    The national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud said it had received 15,000 reports from people who had been victims of scams during the past six months.

    It said the amount of money people had been tricked out of ranged from just £6 to more than £1 million.

    The most common type of fraud involved online shopping and auction sites, followed by advance fee frauds, under which people are asked to pay a fee for a service, often a psychic reading or arranging a loan, but they never receive what they have paid for.

  • Comment number 84.

    @48 People will be no more forced online than they are forced to use electricity.

    Straw in the wind... a business can only submit a VAT return online as from the early part of this year. Okay, very few businesses - apart from the revanchist builders at #5 - don't use a connected computer in their administration; my business could not survive without a connected computer, purely as a communication medium.

    But how long will it be before HMR&C - the same tax-collector for PAYE, Income Tax and VAT - want all personal tax returns on line? That pass has already been sold.

    Movement towards on-line-only provision of government/people interaction is not of itself a 100% requirement for being 'on-line' if by the latter one means also "at home". A visit to a public library will display a number of people who live a 'connected' life to a greater or lesser extent and who do not have a connection at their place of residence (or in a few sad cases do not even have the latter).

    The devil, as always, lies in the detail. I believe that a move to mandatory on-line filing of personal tax is a 'Section 44' - an unethical and unjustifiable curtailment of liberties. Encouraging as many as possible to get connected, even if there are penalties (disincentives, disadvantages, downsides, as you will - according to the mealiness of your mouth) for using alternatives, is good practice.

    So yes let's encourage; but slap down very hard anything that smells of coercion.


    PS - there were, before online filing of VAT returns became mandatory, disincentives for filing on paper. No explicit penalties were introduced, but concessions in the form of extra days (very valuable to a business) were applied to on-line filing. That had the effect of penalising those who did not file on-line.

  • Comment number 85.

    Being someone who's very much at home online, I think it is important to ensure that there are a multiplicity of ways to make contact - particularly with those who are paid to serve us. (That's YOU, government!)

    But if the government is enthusiastic about things online, perhaps they should ensure that their own systems are up to the job. Direct.gov is a poorly-designed mess with bad navigation; the bit where you apply for JSA is particularly poor... and once you have struggled through it they then insist on using a LANDLINE TELEPHONE to communicate with you (which, as the form is so badly designed that it lost digits out of my number in transferring it to what is obviously a badly-written database, they couldn't do so wrote a rather rude letter!) The form for obtaining a pre-payment card for the prescription tax is not much better, the car tax one is OK but clunky. Indeed of all the government online systems I've had dealings with, the only half-way well-written one is for applying for jobs in the NHS!

    As for HM Customs and Excise, if they stop a parcel from overseas, they have no means of contact save writing them a letter. They actually do not have an e-mail address for the Coventry Hub! (Which meant a competition entry nearly didn't get to me as a judge, and it looks like said entry is very likely to win now I have got it... but although I had all the details Customs wanted in e-mail/PDF form, there was no way of getting it to them other than by post - GRRR)

    Some folks, however, just prefer not to use the Internet... just as I choose not to use mobile phones (indeed any phones if I can avoid them) or play computer games. And my husband chooses not to drive, he's perfectly capable but just prefers to have me drive him around, go by train & bus to work, etc.

  • Comment number 86.

    The technological environment is changing to bring a simplified internet interactivity with the incoming tablet computers. These will start out relatively expensive - like an ipad, or smart phone device, but become cheaper as those (who may not otherwise have or want a computer), discover their ease of use and adopt them.

    The arena in which the Government may be able to assist, encourage or facilitate, is related to the connectivity services and charges.

    But there should be no compulsion employed in pushing Internet access onto those who do not want it.
    And there are very significant reevaluation - including and beyond a true accounting - that needs to be made regarding the true cost of using computers.

    To be a pusher of something that makes us overly dependent on external things that are outside our control is yet another step of losing the Soul in order to gain slavery to fear. That said - the things of this world can be used in service and cooperatively in ways that are life positive. So what is required - as always - is discernment and wisdom.

    There are and will be contests to control and gain power in this as in any aspect of the world - at various levels from the corporate market place to governments and their intelligence agencies.

    We all know the mind of manipulation and the attempt to control yet because we still believe it is the way to get what we want, we remain essentially gullible and manipulatable.

    The Internet has aspects that lends itself to shared resources of information as never before.
    The Internet has aspects that lends itself to surveillance and control as never before.
    The development of the Internet offers a potted history of the human mind as never before.
    The technology of the Internet offers a subtler language for the understanding of the mechanical aspects of our minds than we have ever had before.

    Until we understand our own mind in its programmed nature - we will replicate the same essential conflicted outcomes in everything we endeavour.

  • Comment number 87.

    I realize I am wrote above beyond the scope of the article - yet the presumptions of the mind will not be exposed to a true evaluation while they run unquestioned - as if they are self evident truths.

    As human beings, we are tending to attempt to replicate life - to make life in OUR image. To map and construct a world accountable to our will and understanding. As if our will and understanding must be forced onto life - as on the natural world, as onto other cultural perspectives and onto each other and upon our selves- for “its own good”!

    There is a deep violence implicit in this approach - for we do not first listen and find communion with life. The endeavours and choices we take from such a starting point serve a different purpose than those we take from a self concept derived - and essentially fear based - consciousness.

    Is the inevitable outcome of I.T consumers - that we become computer chipped 'dreamers' plugged into a neural net - not unlike the humans in the pods in the first Matrix film? Fed with pseudo experiences that substitute for our Soul responsibility? Or is that - one way or another - already the case - but becoming more explicitly manifested?

    What would we do if a tyrannous intent - was exposed at work in the network at a level we couldn't escape without unplugging? And which provided or enabled enough goods and services to maintain a sense of personal security. Perhaps this fear will prove groundless - but the inclusion of dissent as healthy is less and less noticeable in a collective media that makes entertainment and dumbed down propaganda out of the News of the day.

  • Comment number 88.

    when will folk ealise that the internet is not the b all and end all of living. Although I have been online for over ten years' now, and do spend a lot of time online, I managed to survive for over 40 years without it quite nicely. My wife has no interest in computers and good for her. It's like mobile phones, another useful yet over rated invention. Between them, pc's and phones have wrecked the ability to interact through writing letters and keeping the postie busy.

  • Comment number 89.

    well in the Kingston upon Hull area there is only one internet provider to choose from and they charge a lot more than in other parts of the UK......they own all the phone lines. We can't even get BT here so unless that changes I don't see how poorer families are going to afford internet.

  • Comment number 90.

    @20
    "Out with it. Had a Labour government proposed something like this, you'd all be screaming about "nanny state" and "social engineering", and yet so far only one comment has made that accusation...or is it all right when a Tory government does it?"

    Interestingly enough, the last Labour Government did do this. Gordon Brown appointed someone to the post of "Uk Digital Inclusion Champion", whoser job it was to get everyone online, and come up with ways to increase the delivery of government services via the internet as a way to save money. Naturally, the press and media pilloried him for doing this - calling it "desperate" and "simple minded". The tories said it was a waste of money and a gimmick. Oh yes, the person he appointed? It was none other than Martha Lane Fox.

  • Comment number 91.

    I can see little wrong with a scheme to encourage or to facilitate people getting net access if they wish. There's nothing in the manifesto to suggest that anyone would be coerced or forced to use the net should they not want to do so.

  • Comment number 92.

    Megan wrote:

    the bit where you apply for JSA is particularly poor... and once you have struggled through it they then insist on using a LANDLINE TELEPHONE to communicate with you

    I don't see how they can insist on that; there's no legal requirement for anyone to have a telephone, whether a mobile or a landline.

  • Comment number 93.

    Surely the government should be looking at providing a half-decent high-speed service right across the UK before they try to make the services they provide solely available on-line?

    Besides, the internet is not the answer to all of societies problems. The notion that forcing people on-line would increase their opportunities to become employed and therefore help to stimulate the economy is, in my opinion, mis-guided. As someone who has had to spend far longer than I would have liked looking for jobs in the last 2 years I can only say that my experience of using the net to find employment was utterly soul-destroying. Sending off endless CVs, applications and covering letters with no idea of whether or not the employers were receiving them, and very rarely hearing a dickie-bird back, made job-searching feel entirely futile. There is no replacement for engaging with people face-to-face (facebook fans take note!)and I can't say I found it surprising that both of the jobs that I have taken up in the last 2 years came about through the same method that has been in place for centuries - face-to-face networking.

  • Comment number 94.

    Rory: “There are plenty of statistics sprinkled across the report - "if just 3.5% of unemployed non-internet users found a job by getting online it would deliver a net economic benefit of £560m" - but one number seems to be missing. I can't find anywhere an estimate of what it will cost to achieve the manifesto's pledge by 2015”.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Ahh, but what about all of the jobs that will be lost because everybody’s doing their everyday business on line – it’s a double edged sword I’m afraid.

    To come to think of it; have they thought about the health implications of everybody sitting at home (like I’m doing now writing this) on line when they would of been out & about on their feet?

    Life’s too short; the sun is out & the sky is blue, so I think I will do something practical today.

  • Comment number 95.

    ‘the bit where you apply for JSA is particularly poor... and once you have struggled through it they then insist on using a LANDLINE TELEPHONE to communicate with you

    I don't see how they can insist on that; there's no legal requirement for anyone to have a telephone, whether a mobile or a landline.’ Grey Animal

    Some organisations (banks, credit agencies etc) still expect you to have a land line; though they are getting fewer and fewer as mobile phone use become more ubiquitous. They want a phone number in case they need to chase you for payment I guess.

    Land-lines are supposed to show greater stability. (As does living at the same address for a number of years etc.)

    I had one organisation refuse to deal with me (back in the early noughties) because I had chosen to dispense with my land-line and only use a mobile.
    As I was out and about for work most of the day it made sense to me; it made sense to the rep I dealt with – but company policy insisted on my giving a landline number along with my address, so no deal.

  • Comment number 96.

    Has she considered the fact that there are approx 360,000 registered blind or partially sighted persons in the UK?

  • Comment number 97.

    Ironically, the people under discusion are unaware of and unable to participate in this discussion.

  • Comment number 98.

    The New Manifesto published today does show that there's an awful lot of muddled, flawed and patronising thinking going on.
    Take the new MLF Manifesto and Minister Vaizey’s quote, for example
    "I want to see libraries right at the heart of the digital inclusion mission. To reduce the digital divide, the library network will work together to reach out to half a million digitally excluded people and support them to become confident digital citizens by the end of 2012."

    Imagine I take Vaizey’s and Martha’s Blackberry/PDA’s from them and say – By the way you can only use these devices in the Library open 10 – 6 and not on Sunday or Bank Holidays. Computing and many of the manifestations of it are personal, private and best done where the individual wants – not where the institution dictates.

    If, as I have done, you spend hours with hundreds of the digitally excluded and delve into the real reasons (Apart from disability and economic reasons) as to why people are excluded, there are really 2 reasons FEAR and CONFUSION

    The Manifesto cites - lack of motivation, Lack of Access and Not having Skills as the 3 reasons. They must have been working with different people. The most common excuse from the over 60s for example is - I've got this far in my life and don't need a computer - This is largely cover and a little further investigation will get to the root causes....ie.e Fear and Confusion. It is not in the human condition for proud people to readily own up to apparent inadequacies
    The FEAR
    - Identity Theft
    - Lack of Privacy
    - Theft of money from transactions
    - Viruses ( without really knowing what they were – but clearly the name says it all)
    - “I might break it”
    And CONFUSION was in the area of
    - The language used
    - Instructions giving an uninformed choice to a user
    - “Fatal Error” type of stuff
    - Technical gobbledegook (See any computer Ad – Giga Mega RAM ROM etc)
    Additionally they had concerns such as
    - Who will help me if I don’t know something?
    - Broadband – couldn’t understand ADSL – didn’t want to spoil their phone-line. ( Even as recently as last month we had a customer ( Female)and the Husband insisted that a new phone line was added just to take the broadband. No manner of persuasion would allow us to save him the money).
    These are all endemic system problems as to how the computing experience is currently delivered

    Why can't we make computers like Fridges or cars - They just work without the need to keep messing with the innards.

    We have achieved that by doing an extraordinary thing for IT - that's starting with a customer and working backwards whereas most IT products are dreamed up, developed and then "pushed" at customers.
    There are other alternatives our Operating System alex is just one.

  • Comment number 99.

    The trick with technology is to try to keep ahead of the game. I come to that conclusion after five and a half years spent running a young people's computer games club for 10 - 16 year olds and an adults getting-to-know-computers club. Most of the adults have been quite elderly.

    I spent at least four of these years trying to raise grants to upgrade one or two of the oldest computers at a time. Because the friend who helps me with the adult's sessions and I are volunteers the cost of our network hub and broadband access has been paid for by very low charges to customers. £50 as an 'up front' charge would be impossible for most of the older people and families we've come across.

    However, five years ago absolutely nobody could have predicted how quickly technology would change and that Dial Up would be practically abolished in favour of Broadband and Wifi. At our Centre we have worked our way through helping people to cope with everything from XP95 to the present Windows 7. We have still been quite successful at encouraging customers to see the exciting opportunities provided by surfing and email.

    Five years ago few would have predicted how needs would change. Some adults now arrive with us equipped with a reasonably inexpensive laptop which nevertheless has Windows 7, Wifi and sometimes a 'dongle'. Usually bought without any knowledge of how to use it, but it does fit into their usually quite limited accommodation.

    Young people can now access games from a wide variety of sources - mobiles, X-box, WII, iPods and just lately iPads, etc. Being stuck at a computer in a room is their last resort and only happens for the socialising.

    The first thing Martha needs to do is to define more clearly how she visualises coping with the flexibilities of access - where and when, and of the increasing availability of Hot Spots. Wifi is going to become the norm, as is the expansion of company 'packages' which provide broadband, telephone and television at a very reasonable price per month. This sort of access is available to everyone with no need for a means test to show whether or not they are 'eligible'.

  • Comment number 100.

    Andyhud wrote:

    Why can't we make computers like Fridges or cars - They just work without the need to keep messing with the innards.

    Tell that to any car mechanic for a good laugh.

 

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