Online interface not a fit for some

VINCENT council’s increasing online interface is locking some people out, particularly the elderly, say a couple of people who’ve recently received the “computer says no” treatment.

Highgate resident Gordon Lee read in last week’s Voice that Vincent was consulting on six options to replace its bulk verge collection, including a repeated claim from the council’s website that the survey could be completed “in person” at its administration centre.

Instead, admin staff gave Mr Lee a blank look, then a one-page generic “customer request”. 

Blank

“There was no information on it about the six options,” Mr Lee says. “It was more or less a blank piece of paper.

“I don’t have a computer at home, so asked how people like me and the elderly can have their say on this.

“I was told that a selected few were mailed out the survey, otherwise everyone else has to do it online. 

“It would seem that the City of Vincent is so wrapped up in its own electronic, social media bubble, that it is not giving those outside that bubble a chance to get their voice heard.”

Staff later apologised to Mr Lee and told him the lack of surveys was a mistake and hardcopies would be made available. Mr Lee says that given he was told adamantly the “mistake” was the website, he reckons it’s more likely they’ve had a “change of heart” and printed some out after the Voice started asking questions.  

Technology also recently proved a barrier to award-winning writer Peter Jeffery, whose attempt to apply online to Vincent’s resurrected Arts Advisory Group went pear-shaped.

He managed to get a paper nomination in, but by then he’d missed the deadline.

“I applied for the new board but due to my computer incompetence I was not successful in being considered,” he chuckled at July’s council meeting. 

Mr Jeffery, who was awarded the Order of Australia for a lifetime of services to the arts, was a member of the original Arts Advisory Group and hoped the council might make an exception and include him as a late nominee.

Councillors wouldn’t accept a late nomination, but said they’d find other ways to harness Mr Jeffery’s talents.

Mr Lee says Vincent’s technology wall is a growing trend he’s noticed: The new electronic parking permit system coming in October will allow people to register their number plate online, and rangers use number plate recognition to check it’s legit. 

Instant

Compared to getting paper permits mailed out, it’s instant and convenient for computer-touchers, but “once again, very hard for anyone such as the elderly,” Mr Lee says.  

Vincent CEO David MacLennan says usually “all surveys are available in printed form” and the lack of verge collection surveys was “an unfortunate administrative error” and they’d apologised. 

He says of the e-permit system: “Community members who do not use a computer, phone or tablet will be able to call our ranger administration team for help setting up or managing their e-permit account. We are ensuring there are strategies in place to make the system work for people who do not use computers.

“We are committed to equity and social inclusion in all we do. 

“We understand that there is a digital divide in the community, which is often experienced by people impacted by poverty or inequality,” and he says they’ll work to make sure they’re not excluded as more service delivery goes digital.

By DAVID BELL

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