Shoppers at one national retailer got a glimpse this weekend of our society’s reliance on cyber activity: For a few hours on Saturday, an IT maintenance issue crippled Target cashiers’ ability to take credit or debit cards at its stores across the nation.
Big retailers are likely assessing their own vulnerabilities and exploring proactive strategies to prevent a similar hiccup in their own operations. For the rest of us, however, the brief outage should spur deeper thought.
If society has become reliant on the internet and cyber data, what does that mean to people who, for whatever reasons, are not plugged in?
One area resident shares her perspective in a front-page story today. Sherry Dunn doesn’t have a computer or online access. She says more and more businesses and services have moved to the internet to interact with customers and constituents, and those without access feel left behind.
According to the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of American adults use the internet today. Of the 10 percent of adults who don’t, a third say they have no interest in it, some say they’re too old or technology averse. Others say they cannot afford it.
Ms. Dunn is not alone. School systems have, in recent years, adopted technological strategies in instruction, including pilot programs to equip students with laptops or digital tablets to streamline classroom instruction and homework. However, some students do not have internet access at home, or lack Wi-Fi capabilities, and are unable to use the technology.
Many large employers rely on computer-based processes for prospective employees to apply for work. Without a computer or internet access, it’s difficult to fill out a job application.
Rural areas remain challenged with regard to infrastructure that would deliver internet service outside of urban areas.
Complete reliance on internet-based technology may well be the wave of the future. Meanwhile, providers should explore discounted basic service for low income families, as some already have, accommodation should be considered for the shrinking number of non-internet users, and initiatives to spread service availability to every populated area should continue.