THE BLOG

Bridging the Digital Divide Is a Political Responsibility

17/11/2014 11:27 GMT | Updated 16/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Check your phone in any Battersea street and you'll find dozens of wifi networks. Yet, teachers at a local school tell me that a third of children have no internet access at home.

The internet has become so critical to our lives that access is becoming an issue of social justice, but is rarely seen as such.

Our everyday lives are lived on mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop - everything from digesting the news to finding a potential partner. On a weekday morning, I time my walk to the train station using Transport for London's app, maximising morning playtime with my baby daughter.

As the internet is faster and cheaper in delivering services, more and more of the economy is moving online. So people without internet access or digital skills are becoming excluded and have fewer employment opportunities.

How can we improve internet access and make it easier to use for the less digital savvy?

Here are three ideas:

Firstly, make websites more user friendly. A Wandsworth-based team of entrepreneurs running Nickelled.com are doing exactly this.

Even the simplest of online requests still require support. Gumtree.com gets thousands of customer calls each month on "How to post an Ad".

30% of all Gumtree's support requests are dealt with using Nickelled's interactive self-service guides, helping those less digitally able. This kind of initiative helps to bridge the digital divide.

Secondly, local government must be digitally inclusive. This means providing computer access, for example at libraries.

While moving council services online generates savings on council tax, filling out a complicated online benefit form could be tough without good customer support.

A future labour government could go further: a basic laptop or tablet for all secondary school children. Financial backing for a Code Club at every primary school, like those supported by Battersea's Silicon Junction. Free, fast, national wifi in our country's most deprived, and often most densely populated, communities.

In short, helping us all fulfil our digital potential.