Fax MachineFax MachineDoing some work on digital exclusion a few years ago (part of our Digital Challenge bid) someone made the point that, to a digitally excluded person, a fax machine is actually quite high tech and there must be millions of them lying around or gone to that big tech store in the sky. Or more likely causing some African State to sink under the weight of the landfill sites they now occupy.

I couldn’t comment because for years I worked for an organisation that spent so long deciding whether a fax machine was a good thing to have (even though we had numerous requests daily to fax things through) that, by the time they agreed it was it was a good idea to have one, email had replaced them.

But with digital by default looming and the strategy promising that those not online wont be left behind or disadvantaged it got me thinking about this again.

You see, under the digital by default strategy departments have to have an “Assisted Digital” plan for people who can’t or won’t do transactions online. I am sure all sorts of clever schemes will be thought up using the phone, call centres, face to face transactions etc but will anyone consider the resurrection of the humble fax?

I reckon even the most fervent technophobe could be taught to use one and since hand written notes can be faxed, and numbers pre-programmed, it would be ideal for older people, people with eye sight problems or people like me with an absolute neurosis about “press 1 for this, 2 for that……67 for a real person.” (why do they always say they will record it when you have got through? They should record them while you are waiting to get through and cursing every call centre manager ever born while of course appreciating that your custom is valued).

Providing offline customers with a simple means of filling in forms or sending information/instructions may be worth investing some resources in by service providers as part of their “Assisted Digital” strategy. Much better to have someone collecting faxes than sitting on the end of a phone endlessly saying “my name is Dave how can I help you today?”

It’s a thought.