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back to article Online government services would exclude many Welsh

One in three people in Wales could get left behind as public services move online, according to a new report. Almost a third of the Welsh don't have an internet connection at home, the Bevan Foundation found (43-page/344KB PDF) - excluding them from online services. "The UK government says public services should be "digital by …

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CCSID

It doesn't help that the language isn't supported by ISO-8859-1

Extended ASCII is the bane of my life.

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Go

UTF-8?

Why not use UTF-8?

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WTF?

Internally everything is converted to UTF-8, unfortunately I can't dictate to the multitudes of other systems that they have to use UTF-8.

There's all sorts of organisations from around the UK.

All sorts of crap comes in, there are horrible kludges in code to get the stuff into UTF-8. Half the time it's to cater for people sending ISO-8859-1 stuff but indicating it's UTF-8 in headers.

Mayhem ensues where multiple layers of encoding and decoding occurs turning a BOM from 3 bytes into 12. Great fun.

Not sure why I was downvoted, there might be the misconception that I was blaming the Welsh for my woes, but in truth it's not the fault of the Welsh, it's the fault of bad coding and being a govt. project where nobody can agree on anything.

The fact that Welsh doesn't fit neatly into the same box as "default" English on some systems doesn't help create a rewarding experience for the Welsh people who ARE on the internet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Internally everything is converted to UTF-8

"The fact that Welsh doesn't fit neatly into the same box as "default" English on some systems doesn't help create a rewarding experience for the Welsh people who ARE on the internet."

Well, isn't that a "problem" shared with the 6,030,000,000 (2009 est.) other people who are not native speakers of English, of which approx. 1,965,000,000 are on the internet (2010 est., low confidence), in turn approx. 966,000,000 (2010 est., low confidence) of those primarily using a language which is not properly supported by ISO/IEC 8859 parts 1 or 15?

Just saying.

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Yes

The problem is not unique to the Welsh, but we are talking about govt. services.

They don't tend to stretch into russian, greek, generally they stick to the official language of the country they're governing.

The UK govt. has to deal with multiple languages, however certain agencies are based in England and set things up without consideration for agencies in other countries, other agencies based in Wales don't seem to recognise that they're sending UTF-8 data.

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FAIL

But with perhaps five exceptions, total, all Welsh people of school age or greater can read, write, and speak English, so they get just as "rewarding" an experience as the rest of us.

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Anonymous Coward

So ....

.. the article in Viz about the Welsh internet wasn't a joke after all...

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Anonymous Coward

Is my memory faulty?

Wasn't Wales where BT was supposed to deploy first its truly revolutionary 21CN network?

Cough... Cough...

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Facepalm

Yes, and so it did.

Unfortunately, as in so many things, "Wales" in this instance was taken to mean "Cardiff". As accurate as claiming that what happens in London holds true for the whole of England.

(No major complaints here, I should say - despite living halfway up a mountain 10 miles from the nearest town, we get ~5.5mbps on ADSL, albeit at rather higher price than more urban locations due to a lack of competition. I do know people locally who are not so lucky, however.)

GJC

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Black Helicopters

security on public computers

"The survey did find that the web was available to people without an internet connection, mostly in libraries, but pointed out that users are then restricted to the library's opening hours and any rules they might have on what sites can be accessed."

There's also the issue of security. I wouldn't consider typing passwords or sensitive information into a public computer. Libraries need to provide internet connection for people with their own laptops, netbooks, etc. And if people are being coerced into using public services over the web, then gov.uk should fund providing guaranteed security for library computers.

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friendly?

> Bevan also said that a lot of the services that are already online in Wales weren't very user-friendly.

A lot of offline services are also not very user-friendly.

It's time to re-examine what is being done and why.

I remember reading about Prudential insurance salesmen moving to Psion Series 3 instead of books of tables, but the software was too slow.

An examination revealed that they were trying to automate a process designed to work without a computer; when the re-examined what the old process was trying to do they found a better way to do it with a computer - more calculations and less lookups.

Offline processes are designed to work offline; work out a new process for online.

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FAIL

"8.73 million adults in the UK have never used the internet, mainly because of age"? No. No-one doesn't use it because of age. They miss out because they are technophobes, or because they think it might be difficult. There are *plenty* of people who prove that being old doesn't prevent the use of new technologies, including the internet.

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Thumb Up

Age is not a valid reason...

I hearily agree. My grandparents (both late now) started on a 2nd hand Windows 98 desktop while in their 70's. My grandma even went as far as borrowing books on Window 98 and MS Office from the library - and I'd get asked questions on pivot tables and macros!

A few years later, they bought a Windows XP laptop and signed up to a Virgin Media connection and frequently used it for emailing relatives in New Zealand. This went on right up until ill health stopped them. When I got asked to give the laptop (then a few years old), the once over before being handed to a niece, I found an immaculate machine, patched up to date, including AV - which I'd found they'd moved to AVG themselves!

So I agree - age is no reason, only health and mindset.

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not all phobic or stupid

> miss out because they are technophobes, or because they think it might be difficult.

Or because they just aren't interested. My Dad used my Mum as an email proxy for years, he saw the advantages of email from the golf club, but had absolutely no interest in using it himself.

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Anonymous Coward

Before the postal channel became the default for public services...

... the Government had first introduced the penny post, and built up a network of post offices within reach of just about everyone.

If the Government is proposing the Internet is the de facto channel for public services, then it has a responsibility to ensure the population can connect, and at affordable rates.

Otherwise, it may find that the population uses the stil paper-based election process to vote for someone else.

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Government + IT always = Disaster

I have a range of non standard matters that I need to obtain assistance to resolve. Sometimes Google is able to find things in the government created mess of web sites and hidden forms. However, the government's own portal is getting worse by the day. Finding less obvious information is close to impossible. The welsh are missing nothing by not trying this crap shoot.

Interestingly, matters relating to the more aged are often the hardest to trace. Their problems are not routine run of the mill issues but the government web access is NOT the answer.

It is NO wonder to me that those over 65 are least likely to use the web. I am both a web user and over 65 and on almost every complicated issue end up using the almost equally crap telephone access, just to get hold of the forms that are needed to deal with the affairs of aged relations.

Wales should perhaps rejoice at the frustration they are avoiding.

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FAIL

it's that banks as well

Have you ever tried using banks secure messaging system? They always say please phone this expensive 0870 number even when asking the most simplest question

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Anonymous Coward

You must always allow for non Internet access

I think it is a disaster to try and move everything to Internet only access. They are doing it just to save money. There are many who do not understand how technology works. I have parents who confuse the DECT phone with the TV remote control. They struggle with the menus on phones and have to call a few times. I know that if everything is on the Internet, they will definitely lose out. and so will many others It is hard enough for the general public to keep their computers safe, imagine how it is for a technophobe? Once their computer is turned into a bot and they have been told, they will never get the encouragement to ever try it again.

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Coat

Well...

They could all get "Dai-l up" connections? Geddit? Ah, suit yourselves!

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"Online services need to [...] use ordinary language"

I lol'd.

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Anonymous Coward

Benefit claims ?

How are benefit claimants going to get the money to pay for a computer and broadband. With the way the economy's going there'll be long queues at your local library - if it hasn't been closed down to save money.

And if 8.73m is the figure then 7.73m are in the rest of the UK. So it isn't just a problem for Wales.

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RW
Devil

On saving money by moving everything to the internet

Decades ago, a professional librarian and I were discussing the ins and outs of computerizing libraries, for example their card catalogs. She reported that at a convention she'd attended, the point was made that computerization was no cheaper than doing things the Old Way. Its advantage was that it was much faster.

I suspect the same is true of any government IT initiative, even today. If anyone says it's cheaper, they're either lying or grossly misinformed. Far too many government IT projects seem to be pie in the sky, swallowed holus bolus by brain dead pols with stars in their eyes.

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Boffin

A computerised index is not just faster, it lets you do more, and it can enforce referential integrity. To search a bunch of cards by either author or title, you need two indexes. It's way too easy to end up, through simple human error or misfiling, to make stuff disappear from one of them, and there's no way to tell that this has happened. A computerised index stops that from happening, and also lets you search by, for example, words in the middle of the title as well as by other attributes such as the publisher, or year of publication, or language.

Think those things don't matter? Think again. When I was learning Italian, I went to my local library and asked "what books do you have in Italian?" They didn't know, because this was in the Dark Ages. All they could do was point me at a shelf with half a dozen books on it. They couldn't tell me what other (interesting, worth reading) books they had in Italian at other branches.

As for searching by publisher - some publishers specialise in particular genres, and so if you like, for example, light-weight space opera, you might ask the librarian "what do you have published by Baen books?"

Or by year - if you're interested in the history of a subject, you might ask "what physics text books do you have published before 1900?"

A computerised index *is* cheaper, because it enables all of this stuff which can't be done in a cost-effective or reliable manner with card indexes.

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Private James Frazer, in Welsh

rydym yn tynghedu i gyd

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