Will a shift to gesture based computing via tablets and apps help get the final third online? A guest blog

Will a shift to gesture based computing via tablets and apps help get the final third online? A guest blog

On the day the iPad is launched in the UK, a guest blog from Brian Williamson of Plum Consulting considers what impact a shift to this type of device, with simpler, more intuitive interfaces and utilising mobile connectivity, could have on internet adoption.

“A report by Plum Consulting for Vodafone examines internet use and barriers to use, market changes and policy possible approach to get more people online. In terms of use the report finds that education, workforce participation and age are key considerations in explaining internet use.

Older US citizens are significantly more likely to use the internet than those in Korea or Europe, whilst those in Northern European Countries are significantly more likely to use the internet than their Southern European counterparts (consistent with the level of economic development and education at the time they were at school).

The following shows that internet adoption in the UK is not too far behind that in Sweden – which has the highest adoption in Europe alongside Denmark.

Internet use by age, 2009

Evidence of success in relation to existing interventions by government is limited – though the million housewives programme in Korea and efforts to increase internet adoption by young people in Portugal do appear to have had an impact.

On the face of it this evidence, combined with the fact that the rate of adoption growth amongst less educated older people is lower and accounted for to a significant extent by the ageing of younger existing internet users, suggest that getting the final third online may be slow and difficult.

Plum’s research also point to skills, affordability, perceived relevance and fear as factors inhibiting internet and broadband adoption. Whilst different considerations will matter more for different target groups, changes now underway may go a long way to reducing barriers. The emerging combination of touch and gesture based interfaces, ‘apps’ for specific services (complemented by cloud computing), simpler operating systems and more flexible and affordable wireless broadband access packages may help reduce exiting barriers including skill, relevance, fear and cost.

This shift is exemplified by, but will not be limited to, the Apple iPad (pictured below) and associated more flexible wireless tariff plans (which include per MB, daily, weekly and monthly packages without a contract) available in the UK from 28 May 2010. Available data plans will include a five pence per megabyte plan with no contractual commitment – potentially lowering ongoing costs significantly for some.


Over time, more spectrum and next generation mobile technology will lower the cost per megabyte – perhaps five-fold. Tablet devices can also be expected to fall in price (for example the One Laptop per Child initiative plans a $100 tablet by 2012). To be effective interventions designed to get people online should work with the grain of these changes, rather than continuing to focus on teaching the final-third to use PCs and on fixed broadband only initiatives.

Computer scientist Bran Ferren defined technology as ‘stuff that doesn’t work yet’. Perhaps, at last, we are getting beyond technology.”

Brian Williamson is a consultant with Plum Consulting and author of numerous reports, including the BSG’s ‘A Framework for Evaluating the Value of Next Generation Broadband‘.