We must work at making the public IT savvy

We must work at making the public IT savvy

Summary: Many Britons are failing to tap into technology simply because they do not know how, says David Clarke


Digital inclusion in society is not just about access to information, but also about knowing how to use technology, says David Clarke.

Information is vital to modern societies. Many people, not just in the IT community, recognise this. BCS research shows 83 percent of the UK population wants more information about public services to be freely available, for example.

But information access and understanding are not spread evenly across society. Too many people do not have access or do not know how to go about getting access. Others are just more experienced or sophisticated in how they have integrated information and technology to enrich their lives — socially, commercially or culturally.

When it comes to technology, disappointingly, nearly a quarter of people still do not think it has changed their lives for the better.

Information access
Unless all members of society are made aware of how they can access and use information in their daily lives, the significant proportion of Britons who are failing to realise the benefits of information technology will persist.

This issue is not just a question of access: people also need to know how to use information, as well as information technology, to their advantage. They need to feel safe and secure too — BCS research shows 90 percent of the population are concerned about the information organisations have about them and how that might be used.

In short, we need to become information-savvy citizens, which is why BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has launched its 'Savvy Citizens' campaign.

The big challenge for society is how to make the impact and value of information more relevant to the lives of individual citizens, to ensure information is accessible and usable and to educate people to manage information responsibly and effectively.

Unrivalled contribution
The IT community already makes an unrivalled contribution to these goals. It is an informed and information-savvy community. IT professionals are right at the heart of the transformation of society, even if we do not always think of it this way. The IT community is vital to progress towards a truly enabled information society.

So, one of our responsibilities as a community should be to lead the debate around the power and value of information and generate a better public understanding of the benefits of information and technology — helping people become information-savvy.

David Clarke is chief executive of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, representing over 70,000 IT professionals. Clarke took up his post at BCS in May 2002 and has nearly 30 years' involvement with IT systems, first on the supply side with HP, DEC and Compaq, then as chief executive in the Virgin group of companies and Trinity Mirror.

Topics: Broadband, Tech Industry

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  • Fully agree - it's help us all

    If everyone on the Net was as internet savvy as the geeks amongst us, there would be fewer virus infections, fewer botnets, more confident web use and hence more and better web services, and dodgy shenanigans by large corporations or governments attempting to curb, control or monitor our activities on and offline would come under much greater scrutiny.
  • We must work at making the public IT savvy

    I fully agree, but the tools we use have to be secure, efficient, and more easily grasped by the first time users. Too many times the first time buyer turns on a new computer before activating the AV, and making sure it is ready to repel any threats, and ends up with a $500.00 paperweight.
  • Take it to the top

    The problem here, it seems to me, is not the public but British culture. For too long, the country's media and political cultures have been dominated by arts graduates (of whom I confess to being one) who delight in knowing nothing about technology - nor do some of them even seem interested either in finding out, or even acquiring the mental tools with which to analyse and resolve problems.

    Together with the gutless non-leadership that our political class has demonstrated as the backdrop, it's hard to imagine the public making a leap for which there's no role model. Unlike - for example - the French, we don't revere engineers and philosophers - or, indeed, thinking at all...
    Manek Dubash