Cyberclinic

I think I'm a bit over-connected. This must be the diametric opposite of how a hermit feels; I don't live in a cave, I know too much about everyone, people know too much about me, and if they want more information out of me there are no shortage of ways to ask. Part of the problem is my compulsion to check various message receptacles – answerphones, voicemails, email inboxes, Twitter messages etc – which I tend to do in rotation, as when I've finished checking the last one it feels like it's time to check the first one again. Because I've got no idea who's going to get in touch, or when, or – more importantly – how.

Streamlining this grievous state of affairs is the thinking behind Enum, a standard which aims to map one phone number to all of our points of contact. People don't ponder how to get in touch with us; we decide, but we give them all the same number. Between nine and five, you might specify that work-related enquiries go to your office. Or, if you're sunning yourself in the Seychelles, they can go to an already overworked and now mildly incandescent colleague. Messages from that stalky person you met online go straight to voicemail. That phone number could also be used as an email contact – and again, you would decide where those messages are directed. There are side-benefits: if you switch mobile networks and get a new sim, you don't need to tell anyone; you just update your Enum settings. Old email addresses can be jettisoned, safe in the knowledge that no-one will use them because you've told Enum not to. One number, that sticks with you for life. More space on your business card for a motto and an attractive picture. Everyone wins.

But Enum has been operational in the UK since March 2009, and so far has only been of interest to businesses looking to save cash by routing calls over the internet. Why? Well, few applications for phones or computers are even aware it exists. Indeed, landline and mobile networks are pretending it doesn't exist at all, because of the threat it poses to their revenues. Also, we've failed to take to this idea before: 070 numbers, launched in the UK in 1995, were meant to give us a personal number for life, but ended up being used by scam artists instead. Lastly, we probably don't want to pay for it as yet. There is a broad consensus that Enum's time will come, but while we wait, that's probably a good opportunity to check our email. Again.





Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk

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