Reliance on technology

I’d actually written another article to post this week. We’re away on a well-deserved break (hurrah!) but I’ve forgotten to bring my laptop charger (boo!). It reminds me how reliant on technology many of us have become. While not being able to use my laptop isn’t a huge deal, I now won’t be able to do some of the tasks I’d hoped to do this week whilst being away, and I’ll need to be a little creative with other things e.g. writing this new article, and posting on social media. However, maybe there’s some good that will come from my enforced technology detox – it’s made me reflect on how reliant I’ve become on technology every day.


Technology solutions 

Our lives today have been heavily impacted and influenced by technological solutions, many of which we take for granted. Think of the improvements to health, education, travel and communication, as well as how technology supports modern lifestyles.

I often think of myself as a bit of a luddite – for instance, I was a pretty late smartphone adopter, and I still like CDs – yet over time I have found myself opting for technological solutions over more traditional ones. And this is just in my daily life, never mind the impact on my work.


10 ways I use technology most days

I sat down and thought about some things I regularly use technology for, against more traditional solutions I could use instead.

1.     Checking the weather via phone apps, Alexa, or internet Looking out of the window! Stepping outside to see for myself. Waiting to see (and being prepared for the elements).
2.     Social media – including various message services Going to see people face to face or calling them by phone (using a phone number!) Or maybe writing a note, card, or a letter.
3.     Navigating using GPS / Satnav on my phone and in my car Using a map! Following my nose – trusting my internal GPS, and enjoying the discovery.
4.     Reading the ‘newspaper’ on my tablet Checking the news elsewhere e.g. on real paper, or watching live TV or radio
5.     Looking up recipes online Using one of my many recipe books, collected over the years.
6.     Online banking Phone banking or visiting a branch instead.
7.     Shopping – groceries and just about everything else Going to a physical store – although I take a list as I always spend more in a real shop.
8.     Using phone as a clock, alarm, timer etc. Using a watch, alarm or traditional alarm clock
9.     Looking things up – advice, trivia etc. on google or elsewhere Talking with others. Letting my self-conscious mull things over and come up with the answer.
10.  Meeting up with others when out and about Arranging to meet in a specific location. Checking clothing or other if someone new.

There are of course alternatives for most of the things I regularly use technology for, and I’m old enough to remember a time pre-technology, so I think I’ll survive. I actually quite enjoy being old school sometimes 😉

On the flip side, many younger people will grow up without many of these experiences. Some skills like reading a map, risk becoming obsolete. Sadly, I know some people of my own age already struggle with this.


Wider use of technology

On a more serious note, while many of us take the technology we use for granted in the form of smartphones, tablets, laptops/PC and other screens and devices we encounter when we’re out and about, not everyone does. Some people have limited or no access to internet at home and find using technology of any kind very alien.  While this shouldn’t be an issue in itself, as you don’t miss what you’ve never had, some more traditional ways are being reduced or even eliminated in favour of technology-based solutions:

  • Access to doctors and prescription systems
  • Library technology
  • Banks
  • Post Offices
  • Travel tickets

More and more organisations are opting to provide online services, stopping face to face or even phone services. This is mainly for cost reasons, but also for ‘convenience’. But how is this convenient if you can’t access or understand them?


Digital divide

In a digital world, computer skills are becoming more and more important to be able to function on a daily basis. How can we make sure the most vulnerable sectors of UK society aren’t excluded and the internet is accessible to all?

Some facts from a report on the Digital Divide in the UK:

  • 8 million UK adults are offline
  • 9 million adults in the UK have never used the internet
  • There are 4.1 million adults living in social housing that are offline
  • The South East had the highest proportion of recent internet users (90%) and Northern Ireland was the area with the lowest proportion (80%)
  • 27% of disabled adults (3.3 million) had never used the internet
  • Adults aged 16 to 24 years have consistently shown the highest rates of internet use
  • between 75% and 90% of jobs require at least some computer use
  • Offline households are missing out on estimated savings of £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online.
  • Source:ONS 2015, National Housing Federation, The Tinder Foundation

Digital inequality mattersbecause those without access and the right combination ofaccess, skills, motivation and knowledge, are missing out on important areas of the digital world. This doesn’t just impact on individual lives but on families, communities, political processes, democracy, public services and the economic and social health of the nation as a whole.

In order to address this, the UK government has a policy for digital inclusion, which is about having the access, skills and motivation to confidently go online to access the opportunities of the internet. It seems some things are being done, but is this enough? I’m sure many of us know people that are at risk of not accessing what they need now or may need in the future, due to lack of digital access.


Closing the loop

While its actually been fairly refreshing not to be able to use my laptop this week (OK, I do still have my smartphone, but this is more limited) it has forced me to be more resourceful and creative in many of the things I normally take for granted. I’ve completed a marketing plan on paper, I’ve read a couple of paper books (I’m on holiday) and hopefully I’ve been more present for my family too.

I may actually try a day a week without technology from now on. I’ll also encourage my family to unplug, but I’m not sure I’ll have many volunteers. Given where we are as a society – as well as the way I personally use technology to support the various facets of my busy life – it will be really tough to drop a day of technology. The benefits that technology can bring to our lives these days are just too good, and too interwoven. As long as we don’t take them for granted.


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