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People who refuse to get online are 'going to be an issue'

Friday, October 31st 2014 by Ellen Branagh

People who refuse to embrace technology will be “left behind” as the world becomes increasingly digital, according to one expert.

Applied futurist Tom Cheesewright (pictured) said the situation would “come to a head” in local government, as councils and authorities increasingly turn to online services to save cash.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, he said that people who cannot get online are already economically disadvantaged, but it is those who refuse to embrace technology that will be an issue.

Mr Cheesewright, who founded company Book of the Future, advises organisations including commercial companies, health trusts, and local councils about how to look ahead to the future.

He said: “You are already economically disadvantaged now, because you get the best prices online.

“Where it’s going to come to a head is actually in local government."

Mr Cheesewright cited Ofcom figures suggesting that around 5% of British people are not online and do not want to be.

He said: “There’s people who are not online because they can’t afford it. We can solve that.

“We can bring prices down, we can deliver free wi-fi, we can give devices away.

“But there’s people who just don’t want to be because they don’t get it, they don’t understand it. They’re going to be an issue.

“And they’re going to be an issue because most branches of local government actually across Europe, certainly in the UK, Spain and other places, are losing half their operational budget. It’s going.

“And sure, there are efficiencies that can be made, and I’m working with local government at the moment, but fundamentally they’re going to have to make some very hard choices about how they serve people in the future.

“Most of that service is going to be increasingly digital and we will leave people behind, no two ways about it, whether it’s because economically they are divided or because they lack skills, whether its because they are otherwise disadvantaged.

“That for me is really scary, I am almost certain we are going to leave people behind.”

He said that in the long term, the “digital divide” will be between “consumers and creators” and the UK could suffer if it does not become a “maker culture”.

He said: “Why am I concerned about us being behind from a broadband perspective and an access perspective?

“Because it’s a fundamental component in people moving to the next stage of being a digital consumer to a digital creator.

“It doesn’t feel like we have enough of a maker culture in the UK developing.

“There’s a statistic that came out of the Oxford Martin School of management relatively recently that says 47% of all jobs could be automated – not will be, but could be, by 2032. That’s not very far away.

“And so you have to start to think, what jobs are not going to be automated? “What are going to be the high-value roles where both we as individuals and we as an economy can continue to thrive?”

“For me there are three skills that will not be automated in that timeframe.

“There’s the ability to curate, to discover and qualify information.

“The ability to create, the ability to take those bits of information and synthesize something new. Still largely a very human skill.

“And the ability to communicate. The ability to take what you’ve created and sell that idea to your colleagues and to your customers.

“Now so much of that creativity is going to be technology-based. Not all, but a lot of it is, and unless we have the generations equipped with those skills that’s where our economy really starts to fall behind.”

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