2.5 Public information and services
Public bodies such as governments and transport agencies are increasingly providing services online, allowing us to organise various aspects of our daily lives more easily. These services range from simple information displays, which let us check things such as weather forecasts and transport timetables, to interactive sites that allow us to make bookings or enquiries.
In many parts of the world, medical records are increasingly moving away from paper and X-ray film towards becoming completely digital. This has several advantages, especially in allowing patients’ records to be easily shared between departments within a hospital, and sometimes more widely with doctors’ surgeries and other health workers.
In most parts of the UK, doctors and nurses walk around wards with tablet computers and other forms of handheld devices, instead of files and clipboards. In remote rural areas of some countries, doctors can use computer networks or even mobile phones to make a diagnosis if they are unable to see the patient in person. However, this is by no means universal and, even where such facilities exist, they aren’t always available.
Information for travellers is also increasingly being made available digitally: for example, live online updates on road congestion and public transport, and arrivals information in stations and airports. Similarly, it is now common to book plane journeys online – in fact, some airlines now only accept online bookings and will only issue electronic tickets. Many of them strongly encourage, or even require, passengers to check in online as well.
In addition, many countries provide online access to at least some of their government services. For example, you might be able to renew or apply for a passport, book a driving test, claim benefits, or fill in your tax return online. Local authorities also provide digital information services – you might be able to reserve or renew a library book online, for instance – and there are numerous opportunities to learn online.