digital divide


When I first started working full-time back in 2000, one of the topics that we talked about was the concept that over time there might be a ‘digital divide’. I was working in one of the major IT PR firms and I had some big names as clients. One of my jobs was thinking about future trends and topics and coming up with articles about them and sell them into magazines. One of my stories became the main cover feature one time!

But now, I am really becoming more and more aware of the digital divide. While studying for my Masters I was hoping to supply teach a couple of days a week, however due to school budgets being cut there is even less of that than ever before. So I have been looking at our local shopping mall (ugh, I know, but the mortgage and bills must be paid). I went around and took copies of my CV with me. However without fail I was told to apply online.

This is true for the supermarkets and general stores now.

What if I don’t have an internet connection at home?

OK, so I could go to the library, where we are lucky to have free internet access. But let’s take the Boots application that I just had to do.

First I needed to go online and spend about 15 minutes answering various multiple choice questions; including asking me several times if I was over 14 and I had a work permit.

Then later that day I got another email saying I had to go and complete another section of the application – which took 35 minutes. Well, that’s ok for me, but what if I had to take a second trip to the library and I had childcare issues?

So I filled that lot in (multiple choice about how I dealt with customers and basically asking me if I could follow orders). Then the following day I got an email telling me I didn’t get in. (I guess I can’t just follow orders).

Fine, but on top of that I check each week (several times in some cases) each of the major companies if they have any availability yet. At each point I have to fill in an online form if there is.

I am lucky in that I have broadband access at home (although as both of us game it would be good to have a higher bandwidth!), but what about those that don’t. When even minimum wage shop roles are only available online there really is a digital divide at work here.


4 thoughts on “digital divide

  1. armaitus says:

    My partner faced exactly the same problems earlier in the year (and last year I think).

    Our PC died last year and over time our varying netbooks and laptops followed suit (one impressively blowing up shortly after my XBOX red ringed… bad times)

    Our only access to the internet at home at the time was via smartphones (old models) or the XBOX (fixed by Microsoft and used primarily for sticking plasma grenades on strangers’ faces in Halo Reach).

    Shops in the town centre, neighbouring large supermarkets and even supply agencies all told my partner she had to “apply online”.

    The worst was the job centre itself. She had an interview to get back into work (wow, thinking about it, this could even be as far back as last year) and was told to apply for a glut of jobs online. When she said she needed access to a PC the lady at the DSS poured scourn on her, accused her of lying and scoffed. Apparently, as the partner of an IT Manager, my partner absolutely MUST have a PC at home – “don’t be silly”.

    If there weren’t severe economic problems at the time (or at the moment) then I’d have bought the parts to repair our PC, laptops etc. Sadly, in times like these digital luxuries take a back burner. I only have a home PC now thanks to the kindness of friends (and a laptop for work).

    As Huddersfield Library is terrible for PC access and my partners university access had expired, her only means of submitting applications was to come into the office and apply for jobs on the work PC.

  2. It’s awful at the moment. Temping agencies don’t want to know me because I can only do 2 days a week at the moment and they don’t want me in the holidays because there are more people about who can do long periods of time.

    I cannot believe how much hoop jumping you have to go through just to get a lousy £7/hour shop job. Looking in an agency’s window today I saw a job offered for a qualified HR person for £8/hour. £8/hour – shocking.

    We are really lucky with our library service – (as i have previously blogged about), it links in with Essex library and there are few books it cannot get (and I have a strange and eclectic book list!), and there are quite a few computers with internet access. There are always people using them, and you can phone up to book a time – even being able to request one with a scanner if you need to.

    The job centre is awful – a really ghastly (dis)organisation, I will not regale you with my tales, but your partner’s experience of being treated with scorn and general mistrust seems to be standard. And rude and ignorant for the most part. I understand that people do try it on, but surely they must develop some sort of people skill at being able to tell the difference between people who are genuine and those who are taking the piss.

  3. armaitus says:

    The first time my partner went to the Job Centre she was actively encouraged (by the guy who interveiwed her) to take the piss! I remember how offended she was (she has a very strong idea of what is morally right and what is morally wrong).

    Keep at it though. It took her a month or so but eventually the agencies were calling 2 or 3 times a morning, whether she took their roles or not. She couldn’t do certain days either (due to Uni).

    Just remember that the agencies need you more than you need them – the 2 days you are available are just days where you don’t have to turn them down 🙂

  4. Hopefully the agencies will start calling soon – today I managed to get a weekly gig of a whole hour! Still, I can claim petrol for it, so that will help!

    I have been signed up with the agencies since the end of last year, so I really am hoping some stuff starts to happen soon

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