We’re living in a time of cuts, cuts and more cuts. Yet the government is investing in schemes for low-cost PCs and better broadband for rural areas. Is closing the digital divide a good way to spend public money?
Digital champion Martha Lane Fox is backing a scheme to sell £98 PCs to those who’ve yet to embrace broadband. The pilot initiative forms part of Fox’s Race Online 2012 initiative.
Distributor Remploy aims to sell 8,000 refurbished computers in the next 12 months. The computers will also come with cut-price internet connections at £9 per month.
Elsewhere Ofcom has announced proposals to bring better broadband to remote areas of the UK. It wants to reduce the wholesale prices that BT can charge ISPs in areas of the country where the company is the sole provider.
Digital divide debate more relevant than ever
However, I’d argue that it’s money well spent.
The decade (plus) old argument about the digital divide has never been more relevant than it is today. Increasingly, we’re seeing utility companies and banks offering reductions and incentives to those who opt to ditch paper statements in favour of electronic billing.
Technology is essential for the development of future generations, too, as knowledge of computers plays an increasing role in our children’s education.
Entertainment moving online
Similarly, the future of entertainment is online. Internet-enabled tellies are becoming increasingly popular, even though the launch of YouView has now been pushed back. Nevertheless, we’re also seeing movies delivered via fast broadband connections through rental services like LoveFilm.
In my view it’s vital that we invest in a technology infrastructure now so that the same essential services that are facing cuts now can benefit from advances in the future; telemedicine, access to local government services online, online education, secure electronic banking and probably a host of things that haven’t even been thought of yet.