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Public services should be moved online - The Cloud

Wednesday, January 7th 2015 by Hannah Langston

Public services should be moved online even if some UK consumers aren’t able to use the internet, according to wireless provider The Cloud.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, commercial director Roger Matthews said: “The UK is an increasingly digital nation but there are of course some people who don’t fall into the ‘digital native’ category and they must still be provided for.

“However, the push towards online banking and other digital services, such as online tax payments, should not be held back as such offerings provide invaluable efficiency and can hugely improve everyday life.”

The government aims to make all public services ‘digital by default’, and has implemented online-only payment systems for services such as universal credit and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Mr Matthews was responding to comments made by Helen Milner, head of digital skills charity the Tinder Foundation, who said that the move to 100% digital services needed to provide support for people who can’t get online either through lack of access or not having the correct skills.

“I think that telling people they have to do it online and then giving them no support is an absolute injustice,” she said.

She added that the government needs to: “realise that not everybody will be able to do everything they need to do in their lives on their mobile phone”.

“So this idea that everything is going to be OK, because everybody has a smartphone and will be able to go to Starbucks and use wi-fi, is a naïve view of what 20% of population can't do now and what they need to do in their day-to-day lives.”

However, Mr Matthews argued that providing free wireless access to libraries, university campuses and healthcare organisations is important to helping people develop online skills: “We offer free internet access to a wide range of ages from children to 80 year olds, across all parts of the country. People who do not have smartphones or have no internet access at home must still be able to get online and it’s our goal to facilitate that.

“In ensuring people can get online in public places, using the freely available PCs or their own mobile devices if they have them, we hope to help people benefit from the various advantages of a digital nation.”

According to the Tinder Foundation, 6.2 million people don’t have the basic digital skills they need to use online services.

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