Digital inclusion at the Royal Geographical Society

Having just watched Martha Lane Fox on the excellent Car Pool video Podcast presented by Robert Llewellyn,  I am now really looking forward to the meeting on the Digital Divide at the RGS next month.

It is one of the Society’s 21st Century Challenges series, and will also feature Prof. Tanya Bryon, and will be chaired by BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

Earlier this year Martha was appointed the government’s first Champion for Digital Inclusion.

While we are quite rightly focused at bringing the enormous benefits of the internet to the developing economies around the world like Uganda, we often forget the inequalities of access to technology and the web in particular also exist in the West.

In the UK 10 million adults have never been online, but this is more than just a problem of basic connectivity in rural areas the key issue is actually social exclusion which is self reinforcing.

By using the Internet the middle class family saves on average £560 by getting access to cheaper online goods and services, that’s a saving not available to those in society most in need of it.

Another more personal example, to register my son for secondary school I had to visit a (rather poorly) designed website to enter his details, there was the expectation that I would be able to do this and use the web to compare different schools as part of my decisions making process.

I’m not arguing we stop using the web for this, the advantages are just too great, however we need to make sure in this case that  everyone gets access to information for making these important education choices – by making sure everybody has access to the web.

Time for a One Laptop per Family initiative ?

Written and submitted from the Google Offices, London (51.495N, 0.146W)

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