The Internet is not a Punishment

odp-wigToday is Our Digital Planet’s last day in Wigan. Tomorrow we move on to Leigh.

This morning I help someone register for the Department for Work and Pensions’ Universal Jobmatch site and apply for some jobs. It was painful to watch his technophobia and how much he struggled to accomplish simple tasks on the laptop. But, he had been told that he risked losing his benefits if he didn’t use the site, so he had no choice. I am sure he saw all this as some form of punishment. It’s a real pity when people have to be dragged on to the internet against their will. I wish they could all enjoy it as much as I do.

3 thoughts on “The Internet is not a Punishment

  1. I wish they could too John, I have found that people have tried and been completely confused by smartarse jargon, and centres forcing them to do courses for which they have no need and no interest just to tick funding boxes. I have also seen people buy computers and an internet connection because they have seen it working somewhere else and then not been able to make theirs work, so they get cheesed off and remain analogue. I have also seen communities form their own little groups to help others, and volunteers give their free time to encourage folk to try it out. There are no medals for these people. There is no funding. They do it in the same way they showed others how to grow vegetables in the war years. Community spirit is the way to get people online, and things like the digital planet going round just gently encouraging folk to have a go. The sad bit is even if you hook them some of them will live too far from a cabinet or exchange to get a good enough connection to use the modern web to its full potential, and timeouts are too common. People then lose their confidence and lose interest. Until everyone has access to a fit for purpose connection a lot of our seeds fall on stony ground I am afraid, and those seeds will not germinate for many years yet. The current strategy of ‘digitalbritain’ is only for areas that will benefit the incumbent telco, and the technology they are using will not help the millions on long line lengths. Mobile and satellite are too expensive to use for anything but the basics for a lot of people, so they remain on the wrong side of a growing digital divide.

  2. Interesting post, John. It would be interesting to be able to separate the sanction (threat of losing benefits) from the technophobia/lack of interest in using the Internet.

    Should digital engagement efforts avoid focusing on officaldom e.g. registering with the jobcentre and instead focus on socially enriching and/or pleasurable activites, e.g. Facebook, hobbies, sport, etc? I can imagine decision-makers would get a lot of stick for promoting ‘frivolous’ online activity but arguably it is this kind of activity which might help give people the online habit they need to go on and explore more conventionally worthwhile uses of the internet.

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