Friday, December 04, 2009

Big bully State?

Martha Lane Fox, Government Champion for Digital Inclusion, is quoted today as saying that the government should make its services such as Council Tax payments, TV licensing and so on, only available on line, to force people to use the internet. The argument is that it would save millions of pounds if these transactions could all be conducted on line.

I read this in the Digital Unite blog as I ate my breakfast, and it made my hackles rise. I don't like getting angry so early in the day, so I immediately wrote a comment, since the blog post was inviting our views. I shall share share them with you here as well.

Those who know me (a runner-up in Digital Unite's 2008 Silver Surfer Awards), will know that I started to use a computer 10 years ago aged 71, and that now I could not live without it - it is my magic carpet. But that does not mean that I want to see non-users forced to go on line, at risk if they don’t of being in default on payments or licenses that are legal requirements.

In addition to training, would government provide an adequate and reliable broadband service, buy computers for all those who don’t have them, pay for their ISP and security subscriptions, and for printers and the peripherals. My guess is that, like me, many older users would be confused and daunted by online billing, form filling etc, and would want to print everything off. Indeed, I think many people would be panicked by the mere idea of it.

It doesn’t sound like a nanny state to me (as Ms Fox suggested it might), it sounds like a big bully state. Government has a duty to provide the services that people need, not to coerce them into using services they do not want. For goodness sake, at least where the retired are concerned, leave us in peace to embrace such technologies as, individually, we feel able for and are comfortable with. If some of us feel that a computer would be an alien and unfriendly presence in our lives, we are entitled to be allowed to live without them. When our generation has gone, and those who remain have all been familiar with computers from childhood, perhaps that will be the time for Martha Lane Fox to wield her stick.


annie said...

Good for you, Judith--tell them off!
I hope the government won't be that unfair or that cruel to people who do not want to deal with computers, or cannot deal with computers, online.

herhimnbryn said...

Yes indeed!

Sheila Joynes' Musical Diary said...

Well said, Judith. What it would mean for people like me, is that I would have to take over everything for my parents (aged 86 and 85 with no computer and no wish to have one) where finance is concerned thus removing their independence and a great deal of their privacy and dignity. I don't have the legal right to do that as it is my sister who has Power of Attorney for them.

Susan said...

I am a great believer in choice and agree with you, Judith, that it remove that choice. Why should more people use the internet if they do not want to? Personally, I am happy to do things online but why should one be forced to?

Sheila's points are spot on and I am sure that the powers that be did not think of that particular aspect.

Avus said...

With you all the way, Judith. Shakespeare's "the insolence of office" comes to mind!

Debra said...

I have so enjoyed visiting your blog for the first time this morning. I will be back again to visit. God bless.

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