At a time when we should be concerned about our "screen time" and how it affects our eyes, brains and wellbeing, it's disconcerting to see all and sundry promote online meetings, work and learning.

It's as if lockdown opened the eyes of many to the internet and all its possibilities, whether we need them or not.

Influential television personalities are touting the "future" of education, conversation and work, but they're looking at it from a skewed perspective.

While there are a lot of people with the technology and the savvy to be able to do all of those things, there is a surprising number of people who can not, for a variety of reasons.


The main one is affordability. The cost of devices and online usage is not cheap, and for families struggling to buy food, let alone pay the rent and bills associated with modern living, the added expense of technology is by no means considered essential.

Our older citizens, subsisting on their meagre pension, are also hardly going to rush out and buy a phone, tablet, lap top or PC and then fork out for an internet plan. Not when they can get by perfectly well without it. In regional New Zealand, a very large percentage of the population do not have access to the internet. That might surprise the well-to-do, and it does not mean those offline are troglodytes, it just means the internet is a non-essential, hard to justify, unaffordable item. Promoting, even demanding its use for every purpose exacerbates the widening gap between those who have, and those who have not.

Other people have a lifestyle, religion or beliefs that make the internet a place they do not want to go, and who can blame them? While the world's greatest library might be accessible through a device, the world's greatest lies, conspiracy theories and immoral websites are also there. For many, cyberspace is hell with a domain name, and their struggle to keep their young people away from its temptations is hard enough without role models promoting its delights.

For a surprising number of people, mainly rural, access to this wonder called the internet is often sporadic at best, impossible at worst, so while they might occasionally use a device when they come to town or reach some place with a signal, their day-to-day living precludes such technology. That's because internet providers are more interested in urban areas where the money is concentrated and profits are greater. That's just economics.

Further, online learning is not all it's cracked up to be. Apart from the necessity of having young eyes staring at a close screen, the logistics of teaching some subjects is beyond the technology. Time delays, buffering and the inability to see the big picture makes face-to-face learning the best option in cases such as music and skills where teacher intervention is essential.

Besides, haven't we been talking about ways to keep our young people physically engaged and not spending all their time on their phones and tablets? Up until a few weeks ago, weren't we concerned about the damage being done to young minds through too much time in a virtual world? It appears adults are not leading by example in this case and we now have a number of people who should know better promoting their version of the future and lots of businesses, such as banks, are rushing towards it.

Not content with removing a basic banking tool — cheques — banks now insist that older people learn the mysteries of internet navigation just so they can do their banking. Imagine the arrogance! First they want all those people who formerly used cheques to spend money they don't have on devices and internet plans they never needed, all to save the banks a little money. It seems as if the "service" has been reversed and the customer now does the bank's bidding. And for those in rural areas where internet banking is difficult, if not impossible? Banks are about obscene profit, not the interests of their customers, the very people who made those banks what they are today.

So they will continue to try to force their customers online, whether they can afford to or not, whether they can access it or not, because we now live in an era where a bank account is compulsory, and banks are exploiting that fact to its fullest.


Alert level 4 made the Zoom call, and apps like it, a handy tool in an hour of need. That's all. Now, when we can meet in person again, albeit with social distancing, the Zoom call remains and interpersonal communication has been squeezed on to a screen. Employees have been told to work from home, never seeing their colleagues in the flesh, never chatting in the tea room, but staying in their own home, using their own electricity and data plans. And the intent becomes clear.