January 20, 2009

Lack of broadband for all, an implicit denial of full citizenship to some

Andy Duncan My big boss at Channel 4 (spot the new website), Chief Executive Andy Duncan, gave a speech last week in anticipation of the Digital Britain report, the first part of which is released next week. In it he makes some key points about the importance of the public service intervention we are making on the web, mobile and gaming with 4iP, but also stresses why Government needs to act rather than talk about broadband access for all.

I still hear about the digital divide as a legitimate excuse for not embracing technologies and equally a reason for blocking and banning sites with which the Establishment of our education institutions don't agree or don't understand. It's the main reason for a propagation of 'safe' social networking sites and school intranets destined for tweens and teens who spend up to six hours a night unleashed in the 'real' online world, reaping the benefits this untempered activity has to offer. Making sure all citizens have access is a key "must-change" in 2009:

...We must have universal access to broadband services.  At the moment we rank fifth of the OECD countries for access, but in terms of speed we are some considerable way behind countries like Korea and Japan.   If we are to be a fully digital society, then every citizen must be able to participate.  Anything less would be an implicit denial of full citizenship to some.   For a household to be online is becoming as essential to participation in the life of society as having a TV and a phone.   And TV and phone are probably most important to those who are most disadvantaged.   The same should be true of broadband access.   In any case, the more universal a network, the greater its value.  Google, Yahoo, You Tube, Facebook, Bebo – they know that very well.  It’s even more true in a wider social sense as a common unifying element of citizenship.  And while many people - perhaps most people - will want to top up any basic provision by paying more for hi-speed or specialist equipment or content and services, just as they do with television today, access itself should be a basic right for everyone.
Full speech (pdf)   |   Listen to the speech online   |   Pic: Informitv

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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