The future is mobile, and that means digital inclusion too

You know that image of the 7 ages of man, which starts with a chimpanzee, gradually moving into a human standing erect, and then moves on to someone at a desk, hunched over a computer? I won’t reproduce it here, I reckon most people have seen it, and I’d probably get sued if I did, in any case.

I think what that says about society’s attitude to the internet is a big problem. All the time I come across people who say they prefer to be out and about rather than sat in front of a screen, and that is why they rarely use the internet. Others complain about not having the time to sit in front of a computer, and there are those who say they are too busy being out and about to get online. And a particular bugbear of mine is those who say internet use makes people anti-social, when my experience, and that of millions of others, is the exact opposite. The internet opens up new ways of communicating with people we may never have hoped to meet in the flesh. And, it helps us to meet new people in the flesh too. I have met hundreds of new people, many I now count as friends, via social media.

That’s why I think we need to get away from the idea that using the internet is about sitting in front of a static computer. For me, the internet is an amazing communication mechanism. And it is one that I can stay connected to wherever I am. Increasing numbers of people are accessing the web via smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and connected laptops. There is no need to sit at a computer to access the internet. I am connected to my networks all the time, whether this be while I am sat working at my laptop, on a tablet, or standing in a queue at the post office using my smartphone. I’m actually writing part of this blogpost in a pub.

Please can we help people get over the notion that using the internet entails being tethered to a machine that is fixed to the wall. It is something that can enhance our lives wherever we are, whatever we’re doing.

And before you shout that many people cannot afford laptops, tablets and smartphones, I know. And that needs tackling too. That’s why I have advocated a national smartphone recycling scheme (see here) and I think we need more computer recycling schemes, with a greater focus on laptops, rather than desktop machines, than most existing schemes currently have.

The future is mobile, and, I think that is also the key to demonstrating the relevance of the internet to the lives of many people who have not yet considered it.