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2011 National Women's Conference
21 October 2010
Carried as Amended

This conference notes that increasing pressure is being placed on households to communicate and gather vital information, and to carry out transactions such as buying licences and paying bills, via the internet.

Conference is aware that there are very many current and retired women public service workers, on very low incomes for whom the purchase and maintenance of virus free computers and software, and enrolment in IT classes, is a luxury they cannot afford and do not want.

Conference believes that the government’s recently announced drive to persuade increasing numbers of vulnerable people to become computer literate, is part of a strategy to increasingly replace face to face information, advice and support services – where women are more likely to be employed and is indeed the preferred means of communication for women – with online access. By stealth, this transfers the cost of accessing information and support services from the exchequer to individuals, justifies making jobs redundant and leaves the poorest and most vulnerable households excluded from accessing the key information about their rights and entitlements.

This is at a time when:

1)Libraries, which are a lifeline for women without IT equipment, are being closed

2)Massive cuts are being inflicted on public and voluntary services that currently provide face to face information, advice and support particularly to women

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to:

a)Raise awareness of the implications for women of the relentless drive towards “UK online” women live longer, are more likely to be in low income households and are less likely to have work opportunities to be trained or familiarise themselves with IT

b)Urge members to lobby their MPs to ensure libraries and information, advice and support services remain funded as resources for women living in IT excluded households

c)Write to Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone (Secretary of State and the Minister with responsibility for Women and Equalities) highlighting our concerns, and asking them what measures the government plans to have in place to ensure that:

i)those women who are not ‘online’ suffer no disadvantage as a result of increased reliance on the internet by government and public bodies, and

ii)low income households who bow to the above pressures will be safeguarded from cyber fraud, and sabotage which are a real and growing danger to internet users.

d) Lobby the government to ensure that there is affordable access to training, computers and the internet for the many women of all ages who wish to become computer literate but whose financial situation prevents this.