High-speed broadband ‘could transform lives’


Super-fast broadband services could “transform” the lives of disabled and older people, according to a new report.

The report, prepared for Ofcom’s advisory committee on older and disabled people, says that so-called “next generation” broadband could help disabled people access education, work, leisure and entertainment opportunities.

It could also increase independence, participation in the community, and security and safety, says the report.

Jo Connell, chair of the committee, said: “Text messaging has revolutionised the lives of young deaf people on the move in the past decade. Next generation broadband has the potential to deliver the same impact in the home.”

Projects are already underway that allow disabled and older people to interact with care and health professionals via their TV, and to use video links for work and education.

Other areas in which superfast broadband could help include home shopping and banking, and providing more automated services such as opening curtains and controlling heating.

But the report stresses that there are also “substantial risks, challenges and barriers”, such as accessibility and the cost of the technology.

It also warns of the risk of increased dependence on technology and says isolation could be a concern because of less “face-to-face” contact time with other people.

Connell said: “Our research shows that next generation broadband is about much more than multi-player gaming, faster music downloads or high definition TV.

“This report offers a glimpse into the potential services and how this new technology could help to transform many older and disabled people’s lives.”

He added: “We believe that this research shows that there are markets for companies who can offer products and services tapping into the health, work and leisure needs of older and disabled people.”

16 September 2010

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