20 December 2005

Mobile phones and other technology can narrow social divides [Usability News]

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A challenge to the traditional view that new technology will widen inequality in the future comes from the UK Government’s Social Exclusion Unit. The new report shows how technology is already improving life chances and public service delivery, and is being embraced by those deemed to be ‘excluded groups’. Part of the success is coming from the use of mobile phones rather than computers.

For instance, mobile phones are being used by homeless people to avoid the problems of not having a permanent address, leaving a mobile number on job applications. Medical results can be texted to the patient without someone else answering the phone. Elderly folk are playing chess with friends across the world. The report Inclusion Through innovation: Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies shows other examples of how modern technology can improve public service take-up, reconnect the isolated and provide a lifeline for those groups on the margins.

The report, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, argues that ‘excluded’ people already use technology extensively and that we need to build on this enthusiasm.

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