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Monday, 20 April 2015 GMT
Author: Staveley Head

Gigabytes, bandwidth, servers. All words that the older among us have seen enter the lexicon over the last few decades. The young, of course, don’t know any different. More and more of our lives are going online, whether we like it or not. And who doesn’t want to save some time or and make life easier?

We can do almost everything for our cars online too – short of getting it physically repaired. You can buy your insurance online and the age-old paper tax disc has been chucked for an electronic system. You can even pay your traffic fines online that’s if the not guilty plea you submitted electronically wasn’t agreed with.

Breaking down no longer involves awkwardly explaining where you are when you’ve no idea yourself – now you just whip your phone out, press a button, and a GPS satellite will do the rest.

There’s also a lot less waiting around for the post to arrive (we all know how long it can take to receive official forms) so by instantly sending and receiving information we do save a lot of time. And this is particularly useful if you’ve got a fleet of vehicles as all that paperwork is now drastically cut down.

All hail digital, right? Well, maybe we shouldn’t be too hasty. For a start, if you’re not so computer savvy – or just hate the things – you could feel like you’re being left behind. The old fashioned options are still there for the most part, but how long until they’re phased out altogether? Some people may feel like they’re being left behind.

Then there’s the technology itself. All of our data is being stored electronically, simultaneously making it more and less safe. Backups and encryptions are certainly advantageous, but that can mean nothing when laptops are left on trains or security processes aren’t followed. Human error is still a very real factor, while hackers are an ever-present threat.

It also brings a sense of losing control. Not only do some of us enjoying having the paperwork right there in front of us, the electronic process is something few fully understand. It all feels a bit abstract when we’re told our “information is stored securely on the cloud”. Paper and filing cabinets may not be better, but at least we can see them and work them ourselves.

Another issue is that even if you’re happy to do everything online, sometimes you just won’t be able to. When the new car tax system website crashed, thousands were unable to access the service and were left unable to drive. These problems are impossible to plan for and can take ages to fix. Suddenly the Post Office seems pretty dependable…

All in all, there are upsides and downsides. It’s progress that’s more convenient most of the time, but completely useless when it breaks down. In the end, it won’t really matter. There really is no going back as companies save so much money going online and by the time the next generation are adults, it’ll all seem completely normal.

So what do you think? Should we stop worrying about the past and accept the future, or are the new options simply not ready yet? Are we ready for a fully digital world or are we sleepwalking into a nightmare?

 

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