Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has challenged technology manufacturers to make computers more user-friendly, so older people can benefit from the web. But are computers really the problem?
Ian Duncan Smith has asked tech companies to take into account the needs of older people when designing their computers.
He thinks manufactures and internet providers should ‘look at the potential marketplace for better and easier to use equipment’. And getting these people online could certainly be a lucrative market, as 6.4 million over-65s in Briton aren’t yet online.
Is it really a hardware problem?
However, I’m not convinced that the devices themselves are really the problem. I’d be inclined to say it’s the web content that can be most perplexing.
Last time I raised the issue of access to the online world here on Which? Conversation, one reader Les raised a good point in highlighting the deliberate disorientation tactics created by some websites. He said:
‘Many of our commercial websites seem to do their best to create uncertainty. I believe it is called confusion marketing. Take my bank for instance […] they cannot even let you know on your account page what interest you earn on that account. You have to hunt all around the bushes to find out!’
Furthermore, with internet industries under pressure to tighten their belts with regards to security, some online processes are getting increasingly tricky.
I often struggle to read the characters used in verifying a new online account. And then there are the additional steps springing up to access online banking – with gadgets such as “secure keys” causing a stir.
Who should pay to get people online?
The government claims that the UK would be £22 billion better off if everybody was online, so it’s easy to see its motive in asking industry to hurry the process along.
There’s no dispute that there are lots of people in Britain who don’t use the internet, but there’s still much discussion about how to change this, or indeed whether or not it should be changed.
Another commenter, Charlie, argued that those who stand to pocket savings from the migration online should foot the bill for helping unconfident online users:
‘Who should pay for training? My answer is definitely the manufacturers who are making enormous profits.’
I agree with Charlie that those profiting should take some responsibility for those people who are not able to benefit from the advantages the online world can offer.
I’m not convinced that the creation of a new market for more “user-friendly” computers, as Iain Duncan Smith is advocating, is the answer. For many people it’s the (not unfounded) fear of the online world that puts them off.