In this world of high-tech, suddenly finding yourself disconnected can be quite jarring – it can feel, I’m sure, not unlike a Borg suddenly finding itself disconnected from the collective.
I felt the fear of being suddenly thrust back into the dark ages when at a recent conference I was shocked to learn there were no computers or phones in the press room (usually standard fare). I didn’t understand how a room equipped with only a few sofas and some bad coffee can be rightly called a “pressroom,” but that’s beside the point.
Both Hewlett-Packard and I had made the same mistake – we both assumed the other was equipped with the technology needed to survive the 21st century.
As I was packing my bags for the conference, I decided at the last minute to leave the 15-lb company laptop behind. Why lug that monster all the way to Chicago when there were bound to be computers on hand when I get there, I reasoned?
But the computer giant didn’t see fit to equip its pressroom with its own technology. I’m sure the person who made the decision went through the same thought process I did. Why go to the trouble of setting up computers and phones when any self-respecting reporter is bound to have a notebook and cell phone?
I’m afraid that isn’t always the case.
A kindly lady helping out at the pressroom told me there was a fax machine available. I suppose I could have hand-written my story and faxed it off, or better still, phoned it in as the newspapermen of old did, but somehow, I don’t think my editor would have appreciated that.
Luckily though, there was an Internet pavilion set up on the show floor, and though it was noisy, and computers weren’t always immediately available, I was able to fire off my story using present-day technology as my medium.
But I started thinking about those who don’t have access in a world that increasingly assumes everyone is wired (or wireless).
Though techies are fond of bells and whistles and like adding the latest toy to the sites and programs they are designing, it’s important to keep in mind those who don’t have access to the latest state-of-the-art technology.
My home computer has decided it doesn’t like those bells and whistles, and it slows down or comes to a halt in protest when it encounters them. And I’m working with technology purchased only five years ago.
As technology continues to advance at a staggering pace, we must keep in mind the millions who can’t afford to keep up – both abroad and right here at home.
While e-enabling your customer service centre can be a cost saver, it’s still essential to have a human being sitting by a good old-fashioned phone. And while government online is a good idea, it can never be the only means through which people have access to government services.
We must remember that while technology can enable, it can, at one and the same time, disenfranchise. It might make things easier for the haves, but for the have nots, it could be the equivalent of putting up a wall and hanging up a “do not enter” sign.
When I was a student looking for summer job I was always frustrated by those employers who gave only their fax number for potential candidates to send in their r