Online efficiency creates barriers for internet averse

On a recent visit to the Iowa DOT’s Cedar Rapids License Station, I couldn’t help noticing the people blocking foot traffic and struggling to sign in using the relatively new kiosks – I was one of those people. The sign-in desk, with its accompanying helpful DOT employee had, in a socially distanced COVID ravaged world, been replaced by an internet connected sign-in automaton. 

When I finally ginned up the courage to approach a busy employee’s desk, sans called number, I learned that I had inadvertently scheduled an appointment for two weeks in the future from the present day.  

One week earlier, the situation had been even worse when I had attempted to show up to change the address on my license without *gasp* even scheduling an appointment. 

At that point the soulless kiosk had printed me a piece of paper with a DOT phone number and web address for scheduling online. I called the number. The number went to a recording telling me to visit the web address. As I headed to my car, irritated, I noticed a presumably immigrant couple also attempting to call the nowhere-leading number. 

The point is that requiring people to rely solely on the internet for everything from paying bills to scheduling an appointment to demonstrate their parallel parking skills creates a tangible burden to everyone from elderly senior citizens to nostalgic tech-averse millennials to recently immigrated Americans in-training, who should at least have the readily available option of scheduling any sort of appointment in-person. 

It’s not just the Iowa DOT on trial here. Rumor has it at least one local school district now requires parents, grandparents and other fans to pay entrance fees solely online to attend school sporting events. You can no longer pay cash at the door.  

Not everything needs to be online. 

Moving everything online can lead to confusion and costly mistakes, by both the elderly and the internet unindoctrinated. Fundamentally, the everything-online push belies an ignorant arrogance that everyone can and wants to navigate the online world. I’m a software development major here at Kirkwood and even I am leery of doing everything online. What about grandma? 

It’s not that I hate the internet. It’s not that I think life would be wonderful without it. It’s that I’ve been alive long enough to remember a time when to be alive was to be “offline.” 

And while I respect all the benefits the internet can bring in terms of streamlining, databasing and (allegedly) simplifying life, it’s that I believe everyone deserves the right to operate how they choose, whether it be online or offline, in this brave new tech-drenched world.  

Further, I believe it’s incumbent upon businesses, local school districts, college administrations, government agencies and the whole wide world to allow space for the tech untaught and tech averse to have at their disposal IRL offline options. 

Categories: Editorials, Opinion