Saturday, April 03, 2004

Graham Lally is bigging up David Wilcox's blog which looks interesting.

The question of the day is "Does it matter if people don't want to use the web."

Wilcox makes a comparison : governments fund public transport because not everyone drives. Equally shouldn't they support those who don't want to use the net?

I think this misses some crucial detail. Government should fund public transport because :

* not everyone can afford to own and run a car

* not everyone is physically or mentally able to drive

* public transport is less destructive to the environment than individual cars

* good public transport creates more ''public space'' which is good for the fabric of society and city.

On the other hand, if these issues didn't obtain, I don't see that government would have an obligation to fund public transport simply as a life-style choice for those too lazy or inebriated to drive. Just as there's no need for it to provide stables for those who prefer horse-drawn carriages.

Government's obligation to other media should depend on whether

* a) those other media are in some sense better for society, or

* b) there are good reasons people can't use the web.

I can't, off the top of my head, think of any reason for a).

There are technical and financial obstacles as b) but as I mentioned in ThoughtStorms:DigitalDivide, I think they're only here for the short-term. In the not too distant future web access will be comparable to radio / TV / newspaper / phone access in terms of price and ease of use. Then the big problem will be culture and time to engage and gain the benefit from the net.

The obvious place where government has a clear obligation is in literacy. You need to be literate to use the web.

But there's another fundamental issue. The web is famously a "Lean Forward", active medium, whereas TV is passive and "Lie Back".

The question then becomes, does the government have an obligation to provide information in a form for easy assimulation by the passive?

Actually I don't have an answer to that question.


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