A new i2 media research
study for the Ofcom
Advisory Committee (OAC) has revealed that future "super-fast
" broadband internet access services, which will become available to most consumers within the next 5 to 10 years, could bring real benefits to older and disabled people in the UK.
For example, some of the Next Generation Service
(NGS) benefits might include remote health monitoring and consultations, enabling some people to be diagnosed from their home, mentoring and befriending schemes, tele/remote working, life-long learning initiatives and of course the enrichment of existing online services.
Jo Connell, Chairman of the OAC, said:
"For many people next generation broadband is already a reality. Our research shows that next generation broadband is about much more than multi-player gaming, faster music downloads or high definition TV.
This report offers a glimpse into the potential services and how this new technology could help to transform many older and disabled people’s lives."
However the report itself reveals that there are "substantial risks, challenges and barriers
" to effective implementation of these solutions, which absolutely must be addressed if a positive impact is to be achieved.
a) Infrastructure: there is a need to ensure that adequate and reliable network infrastructure and connectivity is available to enable users to access NGS;
b) Usability and accessibility: there is a need for internationally coordinated work to support the development of NGS and products that are accessible and easy to use for people with a wide range of abilities.
c) Cost: ensuring that potential beneficiaries are not excluded from the benefits of next generation services on the grounds of affordability. Considerations in relation to cost may include supporting competition amongst product and service providers, and making social tariffs and price caps available;
d) Implementation: more coordinated mobilisation of and interaction between stakeholders (government, health service, social care services, regulators, service providers) is likely to be necessary to minimise the logistical risks to the realisation of the potential benefits of NGS for older and disabled people; and
e) Digital divide: there is a potential risk that the roll-out of NGS contributes to a bigger divide between people with and without access to online products and services, with more negative impact than currently for those without access.
The report concludes by suggesting that "there is a long way to go until comprehensive services are fully implemented
", which is certainly true. The rollout of superfast services, such as BT's 40Mb FTTC
technology, has only just begun and it will take up to a decade before the country is almost completely covered.
i2's research is more of a "thought
" document, with lots of ideas and suggestions but not much else to keep your eyes from falling asleep while reading it. However most people would probably agree with its findings.
NGS for Older and Disabled People (PDF)