Government accused of over-reliance on high-tech

Darlington and Stockton Times: Douglas Chalmers Douglas Chalmers

COUNTRYSIDE watchdogs have accused the Government of over-reliance on electronic communications when it comes to emergencies.

The CLA made its claim following the recent flooding problems when the Environment Agency was urging people in threatened areas to make sure they were prepared.

The CLA, which represents 6,500 farmers and landowners throughout the region, said the agency placed too much emphasis on its website as the primary tool of communication with those most at risk.

Regional director of policy Douglas Chalmers said: “The Environment Agency has been attempting to communicate via the media but when asked how people can access the latest information and advice, the standard response seems to be to check online.

“That is fine if you have a good, reliable internet connection, but many of our members either cannot access broadband or have no computer access at all. And as flooding is often associated with power cuts, what is the population to do then?

“The Government says it accepts that some of our more remote communities are not yet connected to a useable broadband service yet many of its agencies seem to think that communicating by their website is acceptable.”

The CLA is now calling for the Government to reconsider its “digital by default” agenda until more of the region’s rural population is able to access a reliable and affordable internet connection.

Mr Chalmers said: “The Government cannot make electronic communication its default method until everyone has an equal opportunity to access the internet.”

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