Behind all the hype, companies are others are starting to examine the social implications of the information revolution.
SOCIAL INCLUSION THROUGH INFORMATION
The Community Development Foundation and IBM UK are collaborating in a working party to examine the impact of new information technology on local communities and to explore the potential for greater social inclusion. Announced on August 8, it is seeking comments on experience to date and will make recommendations to public policy makers, business leaders and community groups. Other participants include BITC, BT, Leeds Metropolitan University and The Guardian. Contact Kevin Harris, CDF, on 0171 226 5375 (email@example.com; http://www.cityscape.co.uk/insinc/)
BUSINESS LINK NETWORK
Firms will be able to find out about getting help from their nearest Business Link by using the new Microsoft Network, under a pilot scheme announced at the end of August. Starting with on-line information, it is planned to develop interactive features, part of the wider information technology strategy by Business Links to use video conferencing, access to the Internet and on-line commercial databases. Contact DTI Enquiries on 0171 215 5000
SURFING THE NET
An internet system to let school children surf the net and so get access to a wide range of databases was launched by the junior education and employment minister, Robin Squire MP, on September 8. BT’s CampusWorld is providing electronic mail and file transfer, with access beyond educationally relevant material controlled through a PIN. The initiative is part of the government’s wider evaluation of the best use of new technology in education. Contact DFEE on 0171 925 5555
As Community Affairs Briefing goes to press, news breaks that BT is offering to link schools, colleges, libraries, community centres and the health service and so create an information superhighway. (The quid pro quo is a new government allowing it earlier use for entertainment purposes of its near monopoly position in residential connections). The future beckons.
The problem is the potential to divide society still further, creating a technological underclass of those left behind by the information revolution. This goes beyond simple access to equipment or even the ability to understand the concepts. It is about power and advantage stemming from control of information – is that to be inclusive or exclusive, bring cohesion or division? That is why IBM’s initiative is welcome. The onus is on the industries and companies that profit today to guide society tomorrow.
Community Affairs Briefing intends to play its part by sharing knowledge as companies and community affairs managers tackle these issues.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 24 – October, 1995