Should the Govt. subsidise elderly people’s access to the Internet?

Should the Govt. subsidise elderly people’s access to the Internet?

Dear Editor,

You ask, in effect,“Should the Govt. subsidise elderly people’s access to the Internet?”  I am from the school that does not believe that the State should use taxpayers money to subsidise people’s lifestyle choices (with qualifications), so would normally answer “No”. Furthermore, I have no objection to public bodies e.g. DVLA or HMRC providing services using the Internet if done for the convenience of users who have spent their own money to be able to do so, and particularly if it makes savings for those bodies in doing so when servicing that particular cohort.

But where I draw the line is the use by such bodies of the Internet purely for cost cutting purposes; what is known in the trade as “externalising” their costs. The use of the Internet for access to public services then ceases to be a lifestyle choice but an imposition. There is a maxim “He who wills the ends must will the means”. On that basis, a case can be made for the State to make access to the Internet available to those who otherwise ‘choose’ not to use the technology. So “Yes”.

As computer-literate citizens become older, any such subsidy will “wither on the vine” so the suggestion is not long-term. It could also be argued that the facilities provided by such a subsidy would have to be some cut-down version to avoid what is called Moral Hazard of everyone opting for the subsidy. Why go to all the expense for the latest model when it can be got free? This provision would be the TV equivalent of providing certain qualifying folk with a free B&W portable TV.

An alternative would be to oblige public bodies to continue to provide services outwith the use of the Internet. But in my view the Post Office network (expanded back to its former glory) should provide access and in-store help, free at the point of use. This would provide a better overall package.

Yours Sincerely

John S Churchill