It is an old story, probably old as technology itself. Some people have it and some don’t. The arrival of digital has opened up old fracture lines of social inequality. Some people are on the right side of the digital divide and some are on the other, the side of digital exclusion. Yet with digital technologies there is a difference.
According to the Tech Partnership ‘Common causes of digital exclusion are lack of skills or the confidence to use them; lack of access to infrastructure and fast broadband; the cost of devices and fees for broadband subscription and mobile data; and a lack of personal motivation to value the gaining digital skills as relevant and important.’
In the digital divide access is one problem and desire, or understanding, is another. Much work has been undertaken to improve supply. My own involvement in the Digital Durham programme saw the availability of superfast broadband rise from the low twenty per cents to nearly ninety eight per cent across the North East region, yet the likelihood of exclusion is inconsistent.
Whilst Newcastle itself is classed as unlikely to suffer from digital exclusion, the boroughs of Gateshead and South TYneside, only a few miles away, are at the other end of the scale. The rural counties to the north and south are somewhere in between. Supply here is not the problem.
Itis the area of personal motivation where we must focus our efforts. It is not a question of what digital is but rather why. Why are these things of value to me and why should I get on board. People have no problems in accepting technologies where the need is understood. Television and the car are obvious examples of ubiquitous acceptance even when an individual does not possess one or the other.
We need to focus on digital destinations rather than the skills or technologies.