And then there was the BBC Micro ~ set to change the world, or at least the UK. It did.

By 1985 a million and a half of them had been sold with 85% of schools having a “Beeb” as their learning computer.

The thing with it was that one had to work out how to use it. For teenagers like I was at the time it was a boon. Stay in all summer working out how to programme a simple game. Bliss. Of course with 1.5 million units in circulation that would have left millions out of reach of the keyboard. None the less there was nothing to touch it at the time and for a significant chunk of my generation it was their first experience, either in school or in the home.

And then there was ZX, C64, 1024, 286, 386, 486, Pentium and frankly I’ve lost count now. Each one cheaper and each one gaining greater market penetration. The $64,000 question is where does this leave us now as a nation? I was sat in a digital inclusion meeting recently where there was a debate about how many people were digitally excluded currently in the UK and how this cross referenced with literacy rates. Was is 8 million digitally excluded with 13 million illiterate? Was it 9 million digitally excluded with only 10 million illiterate? In Venn diagram terms does the sweet spot capture the digitally excluded and the illiterate and if so at what percentage?

Before I remotely toe dip the $64,000 question I really must state what I do know. In fact what we all know, particularly if you are reading this.

  1. Today in the UK if you cannot access the internet with confidence and a bit of media savvy you are a second class citizen, ripe for scamming and denial of service (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017k60v/features/information)
  2. To reinforce this two tier society “Digital by default” is round the corner for all work age benefits (http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/analysis/2183794/maude-sets-digital-default-single-platform-vision-uk-government)
  3. The current government have a stated objective to save £10bn (yes that is billion!) from the benefit system (http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/6008-osborne-plans-further-p10-billion-cut-in-welfare-benefits-after-2015-election)
  4. Soup kitchens are increasing in number in our urban areas (http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/9972975.Rise_in_number_of_soup_kitchens_shows_many_North_East_families_are_on_the_breadline/)
  5. Even if by some miracle the whole of the UK were active digital citizens there would still be a £10bn saving to be made from the benefit system (I suspect)

There isn’t much on the Google circuit about current literacy and digital inclusion rates. The Royal Geographical Society have produced a handy primer (http://www.21stcenturychallenges.org/focus/the-reasons-for-digital-exclusion/) but this was back in 2007 – the last time the digital divide was topical. The $64,000 question is akin to counting angels dancing on a pin head. What’s the point? It’s a fair chunk of our nation that are not claiming their entitlement of citizenship for a whole basket of reasons. The whole digital exclusion debate over the past eight or so years is enough to make one cross. Here is the barrier, now jump, can’t jump or won’t jump, poor thing, must have other issues outside of our remit. Even the lexicon around the subject is divisive. Exclusion, divide, expensive, illiterate, literacy levels, social literacy, cannot, will not, the list goes on.

Verses

Inclusion, online, engage, benefit, efficiency, saving, good, exploration, discover, build, learn, do, yes

I am looking forward to engaging in this brave new world of can do and online, everything else is bad news and there is enough of that about already.

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