Wales Could Lag Behind in Hi-Tech World as Fewer Use the Internet; Those in Rural Areas and on Low Incomes Will Miss out on Services
Byline: Daniel Fisher
THERE were warnings yesterday that Wales could be left behind in Britain's digital revolution, with figures showing the nation lagging behind in internet use.
Media watchdog Ofcom revealed that people across Wales use the internet less than those in the rest of the UK.
And it means that those in rural areas and on low incomes face missing out on vital public services, unless action is taken to make broadband universal, according to analysts.
Kim Brook, who represents Wales on the Communications Consumer Panel, an advisory group to Ofcom, said action had to be taken, or Wales faced falling further behind the rest of the UK.
He said: "So long as there is no obligation on providers to ensure universal access, then Wales is going to get left behind.
"Wales is not an economically attractive area for internet providers - we have more people on lower incomes, and more areas with low density.
"There is a great correlation between those people on low incomes and those who have no access to the internet - take up in the Valleys is as low as 50% in some parts.
"We are now at the tipping point where having access to broadband internet is going to become absolutely central to our lives.
"Increasingly, our vital public services are going to be provided online, and there are people who are going to be left vulnerable in the future.
"If the gap between those getting super-fast broadband and those not using the internet grows we put social cohesion at risk - social justice demands we do something about it.
"It could get a lot worse if we don't ensure we cater for those in rural communities and those on lower incomes."
He said that government plans for UK-wide coverage by 2012 were not ambitious enough.
"The Government says it wants everyone to have access in 2012, but I think we have to move the goalposts and say, actually, we need super-fast broadband by 2015," he said.
"We will continue to work with Government and industry to roll out fast broadband and make significant improvements to coverage."
The Ofcom report, Adults' Media Literacy in the Nations, showed 68% of children in Wales use the internet at home, compared to the UK average of 75%. …