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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The digital future that divides us

The BBC report on a report by Consumer Focus Wales which warns that there is a risk of a growing digital divide for the 750,000 adults in Wales who either cannot or choose not to use the internet.

The report found 67% of households in Wales have a home internet connection and 94% of these internet connections are broadband. People aged 35-44 are most likely to have a home internet connection (83%) and 37% use a computer outside the home. However the one in three Welsh households which lack internet access could miss vital information and better deals in goods and services.

The study found a "significant minority" of consumers, 41%, who did not access the internet choose not to do so, while 19% said they did not need it. It concluded that low levels of literacy may also be a deterrent to using the internet.

The report cited the Basic Skills Agency which suggested that 25% of the population of Wales have literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old. It also referred to figures suggesting 72,000 people - 4% of the adult population - have the lowest level of literacy, where they can understand short texts and common signs and symbols. It concluded: "Addressing the educational requirements of people with low literacy levels is essential for achieving greater levels of digital participation."

I do not think that there are any easy answers to this other than to improve education in both literacy and IT, expand the availability of high speed broadband across Wales, improve access to computers to those who cannot afford them and ensure that information is available in other formats. I look forward to the Welsh Government's response.
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