Home life will never be the same

The considerable advantages of having information technology in the home are looked at by Rose Doyle

In the debate about the pros and cons of technology with regard to home and family life, the pros, in the case of Ennis, have undoubtedly won the day. The advantages are many and are being lauded convincingly. "There are lots of practical initiatives and ways in which technology can benefit everyday lives," says Triona McInerney of Ennisís Chamber of Commerce.

The basic facilities to be installed in Ennis will give every home a special telephone, one with a voicemail and a caller identification read-out. Most homes will also get a computer, linked to the Internet. These basics will mean that communication, certainly, will be a lot easier.

Because homes will have access to the Internet, families will be bale to keep in touch with relatives at home and abroad for the price of a local call. It mat even be that local radio stations will be bale to provide an Internet service to Irish people living abroad. On-line banking may well become the norm, with the personal computer in the home replacing visits to the bank.

Things are set to become easier, too, for those living alone. They will be bale to select menus and order meals-on-wheels on-line. Home security systems, which will be linked directly to the Garda, will for more secure living. Those living alone, or those unable to leave the home for whatever reason, will have the freedom, and independence, to access public libraries, schools, VECs and social and sporting organisations via a computer or telephone.

Information Age technology will also help with health care problems, especially those to do with people confined to the home because of disabilities or older people living alone.

"Tele-medicine" could become the norm. This involves 24-hour medical and nursing services using two-way video providing direct contact with a tele-welfare centre through the image and sound of the television in the home. Health boards who have already investigated the practicalities of this scheme have pronounced themselves enthusiastic.

Allied to this is the fact that special monitoring and security systems are to be installed in the homes of the elderly, those with disabilities, or others with special needs. There will be a facility, too, to process Health Board and Social Welfare queries from home by computer and telephone.

Just what effect all this technology will have on everyday intimacies and social and social exchanges remains to be seen. As yet it is not known how ordinary people will relate to the changes, what they will adopt and adapt to, what they will reject. Monitoring it a; will be market research analysts from Dublin City University.