If you're not PC literate, fear the NBN

Perhaps I am getting cynical again, but our governments may have an underhanded motive in spending taxpayer billions to get our homes wired to the internet

Perhaps I am getting cynical again, but our governments may have an underhanded motive in spending taxpayer billions to get our homes wired to the internet.

Forget all the lovely talk about education, business benefits or even faster downloads of porn, and forget all that touchy-feely stuff about transparency and interaction through Government 2.0.

Soon technology will be the dominant means of doing business, and if you are not up-to-speed, it may well be a case of tough!

New Zealand recently appointed its second all-of-government CIO, Brendon Boyle, who talked to Computerworld over in New Zealand about Prime Minister John Key's enthusiasm for technology.

"He saw the advantages of a modern ICT environment and is a great believer in what ICT can do in terms of productivity.

"Rather than benchmark against other government departments, people now benchmark against online services such as those provided by banks.

"I think that is a lot of what is behind his thinking. He is expecting e-government to become dominant in government delivery."

Did you get that? The New Zealand PM expects e-government to become "dominant" in government delivery.

But that is nothing compared to reports from Britain this week.

Every household could be forced to use the internet to apply for a range of government services in an attempt to save money.

Officials want everyone to use the web to obtain driving licenses, passports, student loans, pension credit and disability benefits.

They say moving from paper to internet-based claims will help save billions of pounds a year.

Daily Mail readers and the elderly are furious. But Minister Francis Maud says pensioners can fill in their forms digitally at the Post Office, as if the queues there are not long enough already!

At least Australia's own federal government CIO Ann Steward, who has long pushed for Government 2.0 and e-government, can see the pitfalls.

"It is evident that we need to do more work on accessibility," she said. "Recently we launched guidelines to promote access to services irrespective of internet speed, age, wealth or disability. You might not be familiar with these guidelines, but be mindful that the human rights commissioner is good at finding agency websites that are not compliant."

"It doesn't need me to be monitoring you in that regard," she said. "This is an action agenda that needs to be taken seriously. More training will be made available to make sure accessibility obligations are met."

Either way, as governments push through their broadband agendas, you can see how some politicians are thinking.

And it makes it even more imperative than ever that regardless of our age, we are all technically literate. Indeed, not being computer proficient could be as big a drawback in the 21st century as not being able to read and write was in the 20th.

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