Digital Refusniks

D. K. Meister has written a nice piece focused on the difficulties of bridging the digital divides that exist in the UK, particularly those that are based on personal disinterest in the Internet. I pointed out, in the article, that the UK’s new champion for digital inclusion will have a hard time trying to convert those who have no desire to be converted. “The big question is how do you get people to experience a technology that they are predisposed not … “. To read the piece, see:

If you have thoughts on how to interest the uninterested, please comment.

4 thoughts on “Digital Refusniks

  1. The important question is not “how” but “should we seek” to bridge the “digital divide”.

    The reality is that internet access is widely available at no or very little cost through the likes of internet cafes and libraries. Even the cost of home provision isn’t that great, in the context of phone line and satellite tv rentals. So, with exceptions, access isn’t an issue.

    Motivation wise people can be pushed or pulled onto the internet. So far pulling has done a pretty stunning job. Pushing, as practised by a local authority forcing online applications for housing, suggests that the local authority has completely forgotten the purpose of providing social housing.

    I can see the case for seeking to tackle certain barriers, such as as fear, through easy access training courses, but beyond that why ever not let people choose.

    Incidentally I run a small IT services business, which among other things develops web sites, so I’m hardly antagonistics to things web ..

    • I completely agree that people should be able to choose whether or not to use the Internet. The Internet or any other technology should not be forced on people. However, their choices should be well informed. Our research suggests that the Internet is an experience technology — which means in part that people need to experience the Internet in order to understand it value to them. This is the problem: How can we get people to understand an ‘experience technology’ when they refuse to experience it? If non-use leaves them disadvantaged in life or work, then it is not sufficient to write them off by saying they are free to choose. Are you unconvinced?

  2. I’m sure that a privately-educated Oxbridge early-adopting millionairess is just the champion for the job, so my comments are redundant, but I don’t understand the obsession with broadband as the barometer of exclusion. As far as I can see, almost all of the “excluded” have either digital TV or mobile phones, both of which are a more natural platform for a wide variety of services

    • You are right to be skeptical of any single indicator of exclusion. However, nearly all Internet users in Britain have moved to broadband, so broadband and Internet access are nearly synonymous. Also, the use of the Internet tends to be related with the use of other digital media. The digital TV and the mobile phone are poor substitutes for the pc in the home, linked to the Internet, which is the major base of Internet use. For example, nearly everyone in the UK that uses mobile devices to access the Internet, also have Internet access from their household. Other devices and locational uses tend to complement in home use. In such ways the divide between users and non-users is deepening, rather than being bridged by other technological devices.

Comments are most welcome