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We must work at making the public IT savvy

Many Britons are failing to tap into technology simply because they do not know how, says David Clarke
Written by David Clarke, Contributor on

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.

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