Excluded from web 2.0?

An article by Brabazon 1 we were directed to for H800, discusses the issue for web 2.0 as a revolution that ‘older citizens, the poor, the illiterate and the socially excluded’ are invisible in. Is this true?

Well the article was written in 2008, and given the pace of the Internet I am not entirely convinced. My personal experience would suggest it is not always true either.

In 2006 I was teaching in a ‘deprived community’ – certainly at that time my class of 20+ did not have access to the Internet. Four years later, I am still in touch with some of them and they all have access to the Internet and use Facebook.

Similarly, a few years ago my older learners (most aged 65+) from my evening class were mostly non-Internet users … now almost all of the group have access to the Internet, use email and Facebook (Twitter still seems to be one-step too far).

However, Brabazon’s conclusions are supported to some extent by the most recent report from the Office for Statistics 2 which determined that ‘the majority of those aged 65 and over (60 per cent) had never accessed the Internet, compared with just 1 per cent of those aged 16 to 24. While 97 per cent of adults educated to degree level had accessed the Internet, 45 per cent without any formal qualifications had done so.’ The report determined that 60% of adults in the UK access the Internet on a daily basis and that 43% of users used social networks (75% of users aged 16-24; 31% of uses aged 45-54). Of those who did not have Internet access the main reason was lack of need, followed by lack of skills.

There is some evidence that minority communities may use some web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter 3 more than others.

Recent events in the wider world would indicate that web 2.0 is available in countries where poverty and exclusion are common – for example Tunisia and Egypt, where the current revolutions are being fueled by web 2.0 technologies. The greatest growth in the Internet over the last ten years has been in Africa (2357%), followed by Middle East (1825%), Carribean/Latin America (1033%) and Asia (622%) 4. However, even with this rapid growth, only 11% of people in Africa have Internet access.

So is Brabazon correct? Overall – yes – but the picture is changing and fast. Advances in mobile phone technology are bringing Internet access and in particular  services that can be SMS-based (such as Facebook and Twitter) to a much wider audience than before. It will be interesting to see if a division develops between the way in which people use and access the Internet based on factors such as geographical location, age, gender, economics, etc.

  1. Brabazon, Tara (2008) ‘Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations’, The TIMES Higher Education, (online) Available from: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=401300&c=2 (Accessed 3 February 2011).
  2. ONS (2010) ‘Internet Access’, National Statistics Online, (online) Available from: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=8&Pos=2&ColRank=2&Rank=240 (Accessed 3 February 2011).
  3. Kurtz, Jill (2010) ‘Who Uses Twitter?’, Social Media Today, Social Media Today, (online) Available from: http://socialmediatoday.com/jillkurtz/251635/who-uses-twitter (Accessed 13:46:32).
  4. Internet World Stats (n.d.) ‘INTERNET USAGE STATISTICS: World Internet Users and Population Stats’, Internet World Stats, (online) Available from: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm (Accessed 3 February 2011).

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