I have a neighbor, let’s call him John. I’ve know him for more than 20 years. He’s been very close to our family all that time. He’s seen our children grow up. He’s helped my wife deal with household disasters when I’ve been traveling on business. I even rousted him out of bed one morning when I saw that his roof was on fire. He’s a sharp guy and carries on an interesting conversation on just about any topic you can think of.
But he doesn’t own a computer or a cell phone. Never has. Oh, he’s talked about it every now and then. Every couple of years or so he and I have a serious discussion about what kind of computer he should buy and what kind of services he’ll need to get Internet access. But he never does anything about it, and that’s alright with me. As connected as my family and I are, John seems to be doing fine and will probably be doing fine for a long time.
At least I hope so. I thought about John when I read the BBC news article about the British government titled “Government warned over ‘them and us’ online services.” The gist of the report, which is probably applicable to the US as well, is that (a) certain types of online government services are a lot cheaper to provide than personal services, but (b) we need to still make personal and face-to-face services available to the elderly or disabled or to anyone who might choose not to make personal information available online.