The sad plight of the un­con­nected

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

News flash: Un­recog­nised sur­vivors of last cen­tury are lurk­ing in the com­mu­nity, their pres­ence only ob­vi­ous when they’re forced to re­veal them­selves.

More of them than you might think, more than Big Foot or the Abom­inable Snow­man, more than whizz kid plan­ners and mar­ket­ing ex­perts be­lieve.

That toll road ker­fuf­fle and a later rev­e­la­tion that some schools are us­ing email to pass home­work top­ics on to pupils forced the un­recog­nised Ne­an­derthals out of their sub­ur­ban caves and into the cold light of elec­tronic day.

The toll con­tro­versy sparked an un­ex­pected dis­play of ageism from some crit­ics – not crit­ics of the pay­ment sys­tem but peo­ple clearly ir­ri­tated to dis­cover there were peo­ple who not only didn’t have com­put­ers be­cause they couldn’t af­ford them but didn’t have cash cards ei­ther.

Once out in pub­lic view, the un­known cave­men faced pot­shots.

Far from be­ing a pro­tected species, they are seen by the for­tu­nate, elec­tron­i­cal­lye­quipped and com­puter lit­er­ate ma­jor­ity as some­how fi­nan­cially re­tarded and vic­tims of their own in­com­pe­tence.

Me­dia let­ter writ­ers have groped back into his­tory to con­jure up the Lud­dites, who protested against me­chan­i­cal progress and tech­ni­cal ad­vances by sab­o­tag­ing new ma­chin­ery in Bri­tain in the early 1800s.

Lack of plas­tic cards, hard drives, Skype and lap­tops was seen as the same sort of span­ner in the mod­ern elec­tronic wheel.

There’s been proof too that while the great elec­tronic revo­lu­tion is mak­ing life eas­ier for some – and more com­plex for oth­ers – some groups, and not just the el­derly, are se­ri­ously hand­i­capped by the new age and its var­i­ous changes in pat­terns and habits.

There are even peo­ple who have given up us­ing li­braries be­cause they can’t mas­ter their com­puter tech­nol­ogy.

Sam­ple re­ac­tions from let­ters:

Sonya Young, One­hunga:

“Ex­pect­ing every­one to have a good com­puter and in­ter­net con­nec­tion is a form of fi­nan­cial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“The sin­gle mother across the road can­not af­ford to have one. A lot of el­derly peo­ple on a pen­sion can­not af­ford to own one.

“My adult son who suf­fers from epilepsy can’t even af­ford the land­line needed for in­ter­net ac­cess let alone the set-up costs in­volved.

“I know many fam­i­lies who can­not af­ford a de­cent com­puter and then face the on­go­ing monthly costs and cost of re­pairs when some­thing in­evitably goes wrong.

“We were without a com­puter for some time last year when there was a fault with our con­nec­tion and it makes you feel very cut off.

“Many news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines have com­pe­ti­tions and give­aways that can only be en­tered by email, au­to­mat­i­cally ex­clud­ing those who do not have ac­cess to a com­puter.

“Of­ten I’ve bought the pa­per for movie in­for­ma­tion only to find they list a web ad­dress but no phone num­ber and no list­ings in the pa­per. Frus­trat­ing.

“Many ads for func­tions and events and even ser­vices now don’t list a phys­i­cal ad­dress, only a web ad­dress.

“Yes the in­ter­net is fan­tas­tic tech­nol­ogy and ex­tremely use­ful but peo­ple need to re­alise that not every­one can af­ford a com­puter and not every­one works in an of­fice where they will have ac­cess to one.

“Those liv­ing in a house­hold with a cou­ple of com­put­ers and a few lap­tops will not un­der­stand the plight of those who can’t af­ford to keep up with tech­nol­ogy.

“Schools should not have the right to as­sume that pupils will have in­ter­net ac­cess at home.”

It’s a prob­lem which goes be­yond tolls and home­work.

Bob Howe, High­land Park:

“I’ve been a Neigh­bour­hood Sup­port area and street co­or­di­na­tor for many years and I have been frus­trated by a sim­i­lar prob­lem with re­gard to Neigh­bour­hood Sup­port com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“Up un­til about three years ago our Paku­ranga-Buck­lands Beach or­gan­i­sa­tion de­liv­ered a quar­terly pa­per no­tice from the sup­port com­mit­tee and from the po­lice to all mem­ber house­holds.

“Now com­mu­ni­ca­tion is by oc­ca­sional emails and by re­fer­ring to the sup­port web­site.

“The prob­lem is that most in­volved in Neigh­bour­hood Sup­port ei­ther don’t have a com­puter or else can’t be both­ered to link up to get in­for­ma­tion.

“Un­for­tu­nately, since this re­liance on in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy the num­ber of Neigh­bour­hood Sup­port groups in our area has dropped.” Ca­role Van Weede: “I un­der­stand fully the prob­lem for par­ents not hav­ing a com­puter.

“Good­ness knows, it seems hard enough for some par­ents to af­ford to feed their chil­dren break­fast or give them lunch – and the schools are quick to bring this is­sue up.

“I would have thought that buy­ing food was more im­por­tant than buy­ing a home com­puter.

“Why don’t the schools pro­vide the fam­i­lies an in­ter­net­con­nected com­puter if they ex­pect them to use one? Yeah right!

“If they don’t agree to this, then ob­vi­ously they must pro­vide two types of ser­vices: One by in­ter­net and the other by older sys­tems such as mail, phone, hand de­liv­ery, or what­ever is re­quired.

“On the other side of the coin, most par­ents who can af­ford a com­puter and broad­band would find it in their best in­ter­ests to pro­vide one for their chil­dren be­cause they are ac­count­able to pro­vide the best up­bring­ing – in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion – for them and a com­puter with broad­band must be one of the key ways to learn so many dif­fer­ent things to help them with a fu­ture ca­reer.

“What school leaver th­ese days would get a job without some un­der­stand­ing of re­search us­ing the in­ter­net?”

And there was the wouldbe trav­eller:

“House of Travel had a Satur­day full-page ad­ver­tise­ment for spe­cials – as long as they were booked be­fore the end of Sun­day.

“No state­ment that book­ings had to be by in­ter­net.

“I vis­ited two of their branches. They were closed so I went back first thing Mon­day. Sorry, not avail­able.” So no trip, no sale. Looks as if some ad­ver­tis­ing man­agers have got their own home­work to do too.

And so do I – the weekly tail­piece to this col­umn, sug­gest­ing you can con­tact the col­umn – but only list­ing an email ad­dress – has changed.

Sad foot­notes: The lat­est vic­tims: In Waitakere par­ents await sen­tence for wil­ful ne­glect af­ter an 18-month-old boy, fi­nally taken to a doc­tor in ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain, was found to have a bro­ken arm and left fe­mur.

Three-year-old girl Cher­ish­sil­i­ata Tahuri-Wright has died from se­vere head in­juries af­ter be­ing found bruised and bloody on a bed at her grand­mother’s home in Mar­ton.

The dead tod­dler was known as “Cher­ish”.

To con­tact Pat Booth email off­pat@snl.co.nz or write care of this news­pa­per. All replies are open for pub­li­ca­tion un­less marked not for pub­li­ca­tion.

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