Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 18 October 2010

Log on or else...

Bad news for all those recalcitrant ‘nonliners’ out there - they’re coming to get you.

‘A major drive to get more people to use the internet has started, with the aim of persuading reluctant users that the web can save them money and time. Among the events, companies including Google and McDonalds will descend on Bridlington in Yorkshire to offer free web training'.

 Lucky Bridlington! Meanwhile, the BBC has jumped onboard the Get Online campaign, signing up an assortment of celebrities and shoehorning a particularly cloying story-line into The Archers; the reason? It seems there are people out there who simply will not see the light:

‘More than nine million Britons have never used the internet, and they tend to be more elderly and less well-off. BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones says the campaign will hammer home a simple message, that the internet can save you money’.

Very laudable I’m sure, but I smell a hidden agenda; there's a big difference between using the net for reference and for financial transactions and this campaign is deliberately blurring the boundaries. After all, is it really worth all this effort to coax reluctant people into a course of action they have consciously rejected so far?

Well, it is if it cuts your costs. Already some major companies are making it very hard for customers in the real world to access information freely available in cyberspace - why bother with a shopfront or call centre when you can do everything via a website?

How many years, I wonder, before meals on wheels disappear because ‘everyone can shop online’ or before social services require elderly ‘clients’ to contact them exclusively by e-mail?

In fact, apart from the irksome necessity to have them physically present for medical care, the sick, unemployed and elderly needn’t bother public sector officials with their unwelcome presence at all if they can be dealt with online from a nice, comfy office.

Meanwhile, if that really is the future they want, they had better prepare for the consequences of online fraud on a grand scale. Large numbers of inexperienced computer users being encouraged to carry out major online financial transactions is surely a recipe for disaster.

And that's without the risk of important information being hacked, leaked or left in a taxi somewhere. There are many people who, for good reason, do not wish to entrust personal or financial information to the internet and that decision should be respected.

Instead, campigners are ready to drag them kicking and screaming to the sunlit uplands of internet access for all - whether they like it or not.


  1. Our betters have spoken! Get online, or get thee gone!

  2. 'Get online, or get thee gone!'

    In the words of the person who inspired this post, "marginalised, penalised and ultimately disenfranchised" - what's the betting the cuts will become the reason for depriving 'nonliners' of access to public services?