My 87-year-old father frequently texts me photos from the lake and my parents’ life of retirement.
He also comments on my personal Facebook posts of the grandkids and likes my Instagram posts of what’s for dinner.
But I know he’s not your average 87-year-old in that regard.
Given the last two decades of exponential growth in how wired and wireless our lives have become, one would almost be forgiven for forgetting about the disconnected.
School kids, some all the way down to Kindergarten have smartphones. We even see some of the most destitute of individuals living on the streets, entrenched in a life of homelessness, perusing Facebook feeds under trees in parks.
But, again, not everyone has a smart phone. Not even everyone has the internet at home. (If you live in Ryder Lake I can hear you grinding your teeth and shaking your fist.)
How many people use the internet? According to research website statista.com, 95.6 per cent of the Canadian population accessed the internet in 2021, a number expected to grow to 99.1 per cent by 2026.
Now to my point: Still one in 20 people do not, and even many of those internet users do not have smartphones. Many do not use the internet for banking and other bureaucratic tasks, and many people simply prefer to hear voices, see faces, and have a paper receipt, thank you very much.
Many Chilliwackians know Harold Zinke, often referred to as the Mayor of Downtown. He’s an affable fellow, curious with questions and quick to share what he’s heard as he walks his rounds picking up garbage in his job with the Downtown BIA.
Harold comes in to The Progress office almost daily to use the washroom, fill his water bottle, but mostly to chat with yours truly and anyone in the newsroom. Harold recently joined Facebook and Instagram where he posts very little (save for his Friday “have a good weekend” posts) but he likes to keep track of what’s happening.
But here’s the thing, Harold doesn’t have a smartphone. He has a flip phone. And he doesn’t use the internet much beyond checking social media. He came in the other day talking about the recently announced BC Vaccine Card, wondering how he would get one. Good question. I thought I’d use my computer and my internet to quickly figure that out for him. It wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be.
On the government website is information about how to register for the vaccine card online starting on Sept. 13. The website does say a paper vaccine card will be available but no explanation how to get one. Using the online portal, I asked the question: “If someone doesn’t have a smartphone or internet access, how do they get a BC Vaccine Card?”
I got an email response saying that I should phone “Enquiry BC.” I called, but they are “experiencing higher than normal call volumes.” So I texted my question, as suggested. I also tried the call again and stayed on hold and, lo and behold, a person.
Soon both that person and someone else via text informed me how to do it. Success. And it’s as easy as this: go to your local Service BC office with your health card number or call 1-833-838-2323 and they will provide or mail a printed copy of your vaccination records.
An interesting post-post-modern social experiment to use modern digital technology to find answers to questions for someone who does not use it.
Is it more difficult now than it was when no one had digital connectivity, say 30 years ago? Or does it just seem harder looked at through the lens of all the devices and ways we connect?
I think it’s actually more challenging than it was decades ago because fewer and fewer people are not connected, which increases the roadblocks to the disconnected. Government agencies and corporations don’t make it easy to deal with a great many tasks over the phone let alone face to face.
So if you know someone who is digitally disconnected and wants a BC Vaccine Card, there, I’ve done the work for you.
Paul Henderson is editor of the Chilliwack Progress.
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