Online services have gone from basic information services in the 90’s to being a huge part of everything in our everyday lives. To illustrate this I’m going to go through my own, probably fairly average, online usage to highlight the amount of my life which happens online.
Firstly I found this particular job I am doing now through an online job search early last year. I applied for the job by downloading an application form from the job search site, filling it in electronically and then emailing it back to Disability Information Scotland. I was sent an email offering me an interview for the job which was to take place over Zoom. After attending the interview from my sofa I was offered the job and was sent more forms to fill in electronically and return to my new employer. I handed in notice to the employer I was with at that point by email and had an exit interview over Microsoft Teams (in my 18 months in that job I had never met my manager in person).
While my current employer does actually have an office I’m not required to work in it so I spend most of my time working remotely. I am currently writing this on a laptop in Greggs in Kirkcaldy Retail Park.
I drove here in a car I found and bought through an online retailer. I road taxed this car via the Governments online road tax portal and insured it through a comparison website thus ensuring me a good deal.
My salary for my current job arrives in my bank account every month along with a link to my online payslip. I use the online banking app on my phone to manage all my finances as it is both easier and can be done at any time. There is also no longer a branch of my bank in my town.
I am also self-employed and use the HMRC online services to both check my tax status and submit online tax returns. I also applied for and opened my business bank account online. My business has its own website and social media presence.
Spending my hard-earned dosh is one of my favourite activities and like over 80% of the UK population I will buy a certain amount of my purchases online. In doing so I will be able to find cheaper prices and vastly more choice of products due to being able to access a huge network of retailers from huge multinational online retailers to people selling their own products from their garages. Although I may have to wait for some purchases to be sent to me I note that some of the bigger online retailers have logistics which can both supply me with anything I could want and deliver it to me the same day I ordered it.
When work stops for the day I log in to my children’s schools online portal and read any updates on their progress. During lockdown they were sent school work to complete via an online learning platform. While they were doing this I would be sitting across the sofa from them developing online training for an employability charity before uploading it to the the same online learning platform they were using to do their school work.
I learned how to use this platform via YouTube videos and internet search engines. These are the online resources I used to learn how to fit a bathroom, fly a drone, test the biological properties of my fish tank and more recently how to knock down a lath and plaster wall. I needed to know how to do this on a Sunday morning so a visit to the library was out and it might not have had a good joinery book available anyway. It certainly wouldn’t have had a video of Mitch the friendly joiner showing me how to do it from his workshop in Iowa.
The subsequent sawing, hammering and swearing was punctuated by music delivered through speakers from a subscription based online music service and the day ended with TV served up via one of the online streaming platforms.
If I am too tired to cook after this I can pick up my smartphone and use an app to order any kind of food I can think of which would then be delivered to me by bike.
When I’ve finished dinner and am bored with TV I can go to the cinema after accessing the cheaper ticket prices by buying online and ensuring myself a seat before I get there.
If I go to a gig or festival I will buy the ticket online because well…is there any other way of getting tickets for gigs or festivals these days?
If I travel I have to either book online or pay all sorts of charges for an actual travel agent to make arrangements for me. I returned from 4 days in London yesterday via train tickets I bought online 2 months ago for a fifth of the price I would have paid if I had bought them on the train. That’s if I had managed to get a seat on the train at all! I also stayed in accommodation I booked online through a comparison website thus easily being able to choose the most suitable and / or most affordable accommodation for my needs.
The tickets and booking references for travel, gigs, cinema and accommodation all appeared as barcodes in my phone. No more pieces of paper. My phone is also the tool I use to pay for things at checkouts via my banking app. I can’t remember the last time I saw cash.
Online communications are now the only way I communicate with anyone I am not actually in the same room as. Whether it be email, videoconferencing or messaging apps to communicate directly with people I actually know or social media to communicate with anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world.
As you can see there are few areas of my life which are not connected to the internet in some form or another. While I could probably still access most of these services the old fashioned way by either visiting a shop or an office or making a phone call or sending a letter I would be missing out on the speed and convenience of using online services and also potentially costing myself more money if I wasn’t able to access the myriad of ‘online only’ deals or comparison sites when I wanted to buy or book something I certainly wouldn’t have anything like the choice of services or products if I had to visit a high street to find them.
So that’s my experience and it’s probably reasonably average. I have a job, transport and social life. I buy things, travel and attend entertainment events and communicate with people. While writing this I obviously knew I was going to be highlighting a lot of areas where I would need to access online services but as I was going through my day it surprised even me to see how often I will reach for a phone or laptop to get something done.
Imagine if I had difficulty accessing the online world because I couldn’t see it, hear it, understand it or navigate through it? Imagine if all of the things I described above were not accessible to me!