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Gigaclear boss: Not our job to teach the basic skills to get online

Wednesday, November 26th 2014 by Hannah Langston

It’s not the responsibility of internet service providers to train people who lack digital skills, the head of a rural broadband supplier has said.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk about how broadband companies can reach out to the digitally exluded, Gigaclear’s chief executive Matthew Hare said: “I think you have to ask the question why hasn’t somebody got broadband today. There are two reasons and only one we can help with.

"They don’t have broadband today because they cannot get it, despite wanting it. We can help them with that.

“If they don’t have broadband today because, for example, they cannot read, then unfortunately we cannot help them. Because that’s a problem that’s beyond infrastructure and comes down to education at a fundamental level.”

He added: “It isn’t the job of the communications industry to teach people to read and write, that’s the education industry’s job.

Mr Hare said the government shouldn’t force people to use the internet: “It’s like saying, 'oh, the government build roads so we should force everybody to drive cars so then they can use the roads,' – well some people don’t want to own a car.

“If they don’t want to be on the internet they should be allowed to not be on it.

“There’s plenty of education out there for free currently they can access if they wish that gives them the basic skills they need to get on to the internet. But they have to want to do it.”

However, Tristan Wilkinson of digital skills charity Go ON UK said: “Although I agree the infrastructure providers don’t have a responsibility to teach people how to use the technology they are missing a trick if they don’t.

He said that ISPs need to play a role in helping users navigate the internet.

“Increasingly the smart ones are realising that they need to engage with end users and help them overcome their barriers to engaging with the Internet, motivation and skills remain very real problems for many.

“You wouldn’t build a road network without teaching people how to drive, those building the roads should be interested in creating good drivers,” he added.

According to Go ON UK, around 20% (9.5m) of the UK population don’t know how to send and receive email, use a search engine, browse the internet and complete online forms.

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