A proud moment this week when the first Keep Me Posted newsletter arrived on my doormat. I know that it’s winging its way to households across the land, so I hope you’ll be pleased with it. It details how far we have come in the first six months, and I think you’ll agree, that from a standing start, we’re not doing badly.
However, new figures released by the Office for National Statistics this week reveal the scale of the problem as more companies seek to move people into doing all their dealings online. When we started the campaign slightly more than seven million people in the UK had never used the internet. That has dropped slightly to 6.6 million as the Government’s roll-out on broadband continues, and people sign up for classes to learn how to go online. But that’s still 6.6 million people who need someone to stand up for them and demand that they should not be penalised when it comes to receiving bills, statements and other communication from large organisations.
Obviously that’s what the core of our campaign is about, but we have also had letters from people saying not being a part of the online world is making them feel more and more isolated, and, tellingly, like second-class citizens. So many organisations – and I don’t just mean the utilities and banks etc – are making it impossible to communicate with them, or complain, or even enter a competition unless it’s through the internet. I seriously can’t believe they mean to exclude 13 per cent of the population who haven’t been online, but that’s what is happening.
I personally use the internet, I have email – I’m lucky that I can. But there was still something immensely satisfying about receiving that envelope with the newsletter in it through the letterbox. I could sit down and read it with a cup of tea, I could stuff it in my handbag halfway through and pick it up later wherever I was, without having to wait for a computer to fire up or without losing it half-way through as I went into a tunnel (I’m on the train a lot these days!).
I have that in common not just with the 6.6 million. Our research shows many people switch between online and paper, as different mediums suit at different times. Let’s keep that choice so they can still do so.