Activists say we need to prevent digital exclusion among the millions of people who struggle with online living by regulating website and app design that is essential to our daily work, from parking to NHS reservations.
The charitable association Digital Poverty Coalition (DPA) is calling for greater help for the approximately 11 million UK citizens who lack digital living skills and believes in implementing basic and inclusive design requirements for all essential services.
The DPA requires technology companies to sell devices with less frequently used operating systems, impose low-cost social tariffs from all broadband providers, and classify digital access as an essential utility.
These calls came as frontline advisors warn that more and more people are lost in the digital world. Age UK estimates that 40% of people over the age of 75 do not use the internet. Citizens’ Advice Bureau administrators said those faced with a choice between heating and dining first block online access.
The new figures also show the number of people accessing the internet only from slower, more expensive and less effective mobile phones between 2019 and 2021 for processing complex online transactions. A study supported by the Fabian Society and BT found there were 5.8 million households. Now you have to rely on mobile services to distribute the time your family spends online.
Former Labor School Secretary Lord Knight, who served as DPA Chair, said: You can’t apply for a job, you can’t get a discount on your bills, you’re in more debt and you’re much more isolated.
It makes sense that there should be standards that public sector websites must meet.
In response to the growing digital divide, BT, through its charity Home-Start UK, will provide free devices and connectivity to 2,500 financially vulnerable households.
Simon Smith, 30, from Greater Manchester, who is currently on a 15-month Home Essentials social tariff, previously had to ration the internet as a 30-minute mobile data slot. Her 7-year-old daughter had to hurry to finish her homework on her data clock.
Life is very limited when everything is online and you are not, she said.
Sally West, Policy Director at Age UK, said regular problems customers face include paying for parking online, applying for parliamentary taxes and housing benefits.
Joyce Williams, 86, who blogs about aging in Glasgow, described using IT as a relentless struggle. There are too many passwords, she told The Guardian. Also, software updates regularly interfere with what I have learned to use. It’s made by nerds for nerds, and doesn’t care about the elderly problem at all.
Samantha Briggs, who works for charity Spark Somerset, said: Some people who work with us report feeling embarrassed, old, or stupid because they cannot use technology that others think they can use. They may be avoidable and may be visibly anxious.
David, 85, a retired railroad worker with neurological problems in his hand, said: Just flip it over and move it left and right. I don’t have a computer for the simple reason I can’t get my mouse to work.
Martin Garrod, 64, a retired accountant from Portsmouth, said the system uses text messages to verify his identity and he can’t access software updates on his computer because he doesn’t have a cell phone.
He said it was like taking the car to the garage to have the tires checked. [help] Because you don’t have a vacuum cleaner.
Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Minister Chris Philip told Congress last week that governments are focused on building the world’s best digital economy that works for all.
He added that a variety of low-cost social tariffs could be applied to people with universal credit and access to free basic digital skills courses, particularly including individuals with pension credit.
Public libraries play an important role in tackling digital exclusion. He added that around 2,900 public libraries in the UK provide a trusted network of staff, volunteers, and trusted locations with free Wi-Fi, public PCs and supporting digital access to a wide range of digital services.
Kellie Dorrington, operations manager at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Haringay, north London, said advisors are increasingly dealing with free parking tickets for those unable to go online.
Department of Employment and Pensions advisers tell people to use Wi-Fi at Costa and McDonald’s, but without money, they can’t afford coffee or happy meals, she said.
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