Revolutionary Measures

Creators versus consumers – the new digital divide

Internet Access Here Sign

The last ten years have seen massive progress in getting the UK population online, with over 86% of people now having been on the internet. There is still a digital divide however, with 4 million households without internet access according to the Office for National Statistics.

And, the ability for online access via mobile is extremely variable – as Liz Stevenson from Cambridgeshire County Council pointed out at the recent Cambridge Smart City debate, 41.5% of the county isn’t covered by a 3G signal. I dread to think what the figure is over the border in Suffolk, where I live in a village with sporadic 2G coverage. Efforts continue to help the offline into the online world, particularly by targeting specific groups such as the elderly and disabled and by providing more user friendly devices such as tablets.

However a new digital divide is emerging. As the Economist Intelligence Unit points out in a recent report, this is between those that understand and use the internet to its full potential and those that simply shop, watch or read the content that they find there. It is essentially a split between creators and consumers. You’ll always get power users in any technological change but the risk is that those who don’t take up the opportunities offered by the internet will become disenfranchised, pay more for basic goods and services and miss out on achieving their full potential.

And it doesn’t need to be that way – the internet offers the chance for everyone and anyone to create (no matter how niche or, let’s face it, downright awful) their efforts are. It also offers the tools to make compelling content either for free (for example WordPress, YouTube) or at a very low cost (with a handheld video camera for instance). Only by doing can you gain the full benefit of the internet. At a basic level imagine someone on Twitter that merely lurks, following people without starting any conversations themselves. They may find out what Stephen Fry is doing, but it doesn’t add much else to their own lives (or the lives of other people). People who treat the internet in the same way as TV, as a lean back, broadcast medium, are missing the point (and much of the fun.)

So how can we encourage more creators who understand the opportunities that the internet brings? A really simple way is to copy the behaviour of the young (though without the selfies on SnapChat). As digital natives they start with no preconceptions and no manual to read – they just get on and use the internet as a tool to do what they want to do. Not having a fear of failure, or an embarrassment gene, is going to lead to cringeworthy moments, but it will also mean you experience new things, learn new skills and create. Once you’ve mastered these skills you’ll understand what you can do – giving you better control of the medium and deepening your understanding of how organisations might be trying to channel and constrain your internet experience for their own ends (normally to sell you something).

Otherwise this new digital divide will solidify – splitting the digitally savvy from consumers and providing a two speed experience that will damage people’s enjoyment and potentially harm their prospects. Go create!

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Cambridge, Creative, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2011 Tech Unpredictions

Steve Jobs Macworld 2005
Image via Wikipedia

As well as ill-thought out resolutions, January traditionally brings a slew of predictions for the year ahead. Rather than join the tech soothsayers, here’s my view on the five things that won’t happen in 2011 – but would be amusing if they did………

Queen joins ChatRoulette
Following on from her successful debut on Facebook, Queen Elizabeth pushes the social media envelope by moving onto Chat Roulette to meet her subjects. After encounters with a naked student, guitar-strumming Americans and an OAP that looks suspiciously like Prince Philip she abandons the site as being too close to reality.

Google buys Belgium
In a bid to outflank its competitors and to stop the EU investigation into its business practices, Google buys Belgium for a mixture of cash and shares. Very few people outside the country notice. Facebook use is immediately banned and everyone forced to switch to Gmail and Google Docs from Microsoft Office. It could be worse – at least they don’t have to use Wave.

Steve Jobs launches iClock
Seeing a market opportunity after the iPhone alarm clock storm in a tea cup (how exactly did that make the BBC News at Ten?) Steve Jobs launches the iClock. Stephen Fry buys twelve. A snip at $499, it promises a completely new timekeeping experience with downloadable apps available via iTunes. However in a launch glitch the alarm function only works on Pacific Standard Time, now renamed Apple Time and patented by the company.

Government abandons technology
The combination of shrinking budgets and rising unemployment means it is cheaper for the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition to swap manual processes for technology. Tin cans connected with string replace desk phones and flocks of carrier pigeons carry documents instead of email. Young people are trained to read barcodes to process incoming forms as an alternative to mainframe computers. Productivity rises.

Met Office joins the Cloud
In an innovative public/private sector partnership the Met Office and IBM launch a new cloud computing service. Utilising real clouds to store and transport data, satellite based technology downloads information as and when needed across the UK. Difficulties arise when the country swelters through its warmest year since records began, with high temperatures and cloudless skies from May to October. Well, you can but hope………..

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January 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment