The digital world has transformed our homes, workplaces, and just about everywhere else we spend time. It's made things quicker, easier and more convenient, letting up a lot of free time for your average Joe. But a recent report from Ofcom highlights a more negative story in that a digital divide has spawned.
Whilst narrowing, this divide means that one million homes and offices still struggle to access decent broadband. As more and more of our lives converge online, this leaves a million people in a tricky position. Not only is it easy to become marginalised if you're not part of the online world, those without broadband may struggle with basic tasks such as banking as more and more branches close.
Access to the digital world has fast become something we completely rely on but it's still a challenge for a large numbers of individuals, and perhaps even more worrying is the number of small businesses facing issues. We continually talk about the growing importance of workplace well-being and gender equality in the workforce, but a lot of this requires flexibility which can't be achieved without a half-way decent internet connection.
However, the challenges in navigating this area are still tough. The big four telecomms providers face steep commercial obstacles when deciding where to invest in critical infrastructure. Certain areas of the country have such low populations that it will never be a worthwhile investment, but we can see the severe issues that will arise if more rural areas become isolated. That is where Ofcom's role, the organisation responsible for regulating this little corner of our lives, comes in.
Since their formation in 2005 they have done some excellent work protecting consumers, particularly the recent announcement of automatic compensation, but it's safe to say their work looks set to get trickier as the digital work continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. Evidence also shows that the UK falls behind a number of other countries in providing sufficiently fast internet, and considering how much of our lives and economy rely on this, Ofcom have some serious work to do.
The UK's digital divide has narrowed but more than one million homes and offices still struggle to get good broadband, says an Ofcom report. The Connected Nations report found that about 4% of properties cannot get a broadband speed fast enough to meet their needs. Last year, about 1.6 million UK properties were in this position. Smartphone access to the net also needed to improve, it said, as many only got weak signals when travelling. "Broadband coverage is improving, but our findings show there's still urgent work required before people and businesses get the services they need," said Steve Unger, Ofcom's technology chief, in a statement. "Everyone should have good access to the internet, wherever they live and work," he added.