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18 May 2007

The digital divide

We are increasingly online, but is it creating a digital apartheid

By Mike Butcher

Cabinet Office minister Pat McFadden says even though there are more and more public services being put online, they won’t discriminate against those without access to the internet. Yet there remains a crucial third of the population effectively not online.

He admits being online is both “cost effective and more efficient” so the sheer draw of delivering services this way could prove too tempting for government, despite denials to the contrary.

There are already signs that you are at an increasing disadvantage without the internet, for example Easy Jet has for years now operated an online only booking policy, so cheaper fares only go to those with access.

Surely part of the answer to this digital apartheid is to boost public library provision of Internet terminals and to put terminals into post offices? Assuming there are any left of course. What about free Wif-Fi around Post Offices? Perhaps that’s too much to hope for…..

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