Monday, 7 January 2013

NBN and the Digital Divide

While doing subjects on the Digital Economy and the Information Environment for Uni last semester, it was interesting to delve deeper into the debate around the NBN roll out in Australia.

I have just come across this article which explains the broader issue of broadband availability and the importance of Internet access in our evolving digital society. The reduction of the digital divide* in Australia should be a priority for the Government (National Digital Economy Strategy) and needs to focus on education and equal access. Public libraries and schools should be key players in this debate along with the community groups who are currently on the wrong side of the divide; remote, elderly, low income etc. Unfortunately the debate appears to be around dollars spent and helping the economy and business. This is also important but will happen anyway - it is a benefit or bi-product of having an inclusive policy for a digital society. We should all have access to services and information provided online, whether at home or from a public library (or similar institution). We will also all need to know how to use the technologies, find the right information and use that information to be a part of this society and the digital economy.

Then there is the question around "what if I don't want to have a computer, broadband connection and online access?" Will there be an online or digital backlash? It is clear that those without access to the Internet and a computer are increasingly going to miss out on key services such as banking (as banks move online and close branches), cheaper books and magazines via eBooks and Government services and information. Health services are a focus for the government going forward with GP consultations online for house bound and elderly patients. Is this fair? Should we be forcing users to access essential services and information online? Will this further alienate or isolate individuals, communities and groups?

I wonder if the slow food movement, home-grown veges, more sustainable and less consumer focused trends will spill over to the online community. Not everyone wants to go home after being on a PC all day and then log on at home. Some can't afford it or don't want to learn about new technologies, some of us just can't keep up; MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, Twitter, Blogger, Google+.......... Maybe some sections of society will disengage from the online community in protest or for the need of a simpler, slower paced and more personal lifestyle?

*See Allens Consulting Group Report to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy report "Quantifying the possible economic gains of getting more Australian households online" November 2010 The study also found evidence of a ‘Digital Divide’ among certain social groups. P. 5

Without internet skills, older Australians will miss out on so much by The Hon. Susan Ryan. AO

UK Scholarly Reading and the Value of Library Resources JISC Collections

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