Great day for digital inclusion – or it would be if only the media would report on it. Neil Lewis Chief Executive of AbilityNet has highlighted the need for addressing inclusion because of the government’s ‘digital by default’ campaign. I’ve searched on the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph and even the Daily Mail websites but the news doesn’t seem to got there yet. (incidently the Daily Mail returns no instances of AbilityNet which suggests it has never referred to the issue of digital exclusion – shame on you!)
This lack of media awareness is critical. The government’s intention for access to information and delivery of services to be ‘digital by default’ is simply not getting enough publicity; in particular with regard to those 8-9 million citizens the government has identified as digitally excluded.
How is the population being told of the move towards an online welfare state?
How will they find out about the plans to merge all benefits into a single Universal Credit to be applied for, awarded and managed online – unless the media pick it up and run with it?
The government is building a new computer system for this in spite of the failure of the NHS IT project the damming evidence in the System Error report which suggests ‘digital by default’ has all the potential for creating a new digital divide, one which will affect some of the most marginalised sections of society.
If you are digitally excluded you are invisible by default. As the platforms for discussion and debate become increasingly digital so those without access are being denied participation. Last week I spoke to a local group of webdevelopers, and yesterday to a group of Year 1 Social Work students, about the social impact of a digital society. We have to keep chipping away at the mountain of invisibility in order to surface these issues. Social media is one of the best places to begin. Blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking – we need to get the message out there so those who have the power to make a difference can start to do so.