Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Online world and the Offliners

BBC NEWS | Business | Two-thirds of UK homes now online: "The ONS data suggested that more than two-thirds of adults go online every day or almost every day, with men more regular users than women.

In the 35% of households with no access, there was an increase in the proportion that said they did not want the internet at home, from 3% in 2006 to 24% in 2008.

The survey also found that the better educated were more likely to be online.

The ONS said that 93% of adults aged under 70 who had a university degree or equivalent qualification had internet access.

This compared with just 56% of those with no formal qualifications being online."
Some interesting figures in this report - especially the 93% figure... not least since it applies to such a large age range. Questions in my head - if those with a lower level of educational achievement are excluded / excluding themselves from the connected world, how can those working in e-Learning reach them? How do you open the door for someone who can't even see there's a door open for them? I wonder too whether the fear factor prevents people from making that step into an online world? Fear of the unknown, maybe? Or is that too simplistic? Is it cost? Is it indifference? Active dislike? Either way, one third of people not being online in the UK and 44% of those with no formal qualifications are significant societal groups.

I try to imagine what life without the internet available at home would be like. Y'know, it's fairly easy to do... but I don't think that my life would be richer for it. It's not that I don't do the other things people without home internet access do. I see friends. I read. I go out. I do any number of things. But... there's an easy route to information, communication, applications and so much more that's available via my broadband connection. Today, I exchanged e-mails with someone I haven't seen in 16 years. I chatted with friends living in different countries. I researched articles from collections in libraries I've never visited. I chatted with colleagues who'd never been in the same room with me. Would I miss it if those opportunities were no longer there? Yes. Would I know what I was missing if I'd never experienced it? Probably not. Life goes on regardless, doesn't it?

The question is perhaps are the 'offliners' (those homes without an internet connection) choosing to stay offline or are they being excluded? Is it really offline vs. online at all? Learning vs. e-Learning. Isn't it just that the world is becoming blended and, just like the television, a piece of technology which was once out of reach for the majority will ultimately become just as everyday for virtually all.

PS I don't have a television. I am a 21st Century anomaly. :o)

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