The sad plight of the unconnected
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”.
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