Addressing the Digital Divide

An objective of Martha Lane Fox and the Digital Inclusion Task Force is to get more people benefiting from being online, especially those viewed as disadvantaged.

One of their vehicles for achieving this is the Race Online 2012 campaign:

Race Online 2012 is a national campaign to challenge and support the British government, the private sector, the media, charities, grassroots organisations and members of the British general public to accelerate all their efforts to overcome Britain’s digital divide.

We believe technology can make life easier for everyone, but particularly for those who are struggling to make ends meet, trying to find work or wanting to up their skills. While for those who might particularly need friends or professional support when struggling with a health problem or life crisis, it can be a real lifeline.

Plenty of organisations and individuals share our enthusiasm – there are countless projects up and down the country that are already hard at work helping Britain’s least privileged groups take their first steps online.

Here are a few examples:

Computer give-away scheme to begin – Disadvantaged people will benefit from a council scheme to make used computers available to local residents, instead of disposing of them.

Home Access ‘went like rocket’ – 270,000 homes next – More than 270,000 households could receive a free computer and broadband internet connection as a result of a new scheme to be formally announced at the BETT 2010 educational technology show in London in January.

A good project example is the Digital Activist Inclusion Network (DAIN) – an exciting volunteer project working across the East Midlands.  DAIN aims to promote digital inclusion by encouraging people to use technology with the help of volunteers (Digital Activists).  Funded by the European Social Fund.

If you know of other activities and projects supporting this objective please share within the comments.

Economic benefits of being online

The first report from Martha Lane Fox’s Digital Inclusion Task Force has highlighted the economic benefits of being online.

They have discovered that:

  • 10 million adults in the UK have never been online and 4 million of these are socially excluded
  • the 1.8 million children currently digitally excluded could earn up to £10.8 billion in their lifetime if they were to become digitally literate
  • people who are digital literate can earn an average increase in their lifetime earnings of over £8000
  • the government could save £900 million a year if all digitally excluded adults where online and communicating with the government instead of face to face

Martha Lane Fox has said:

“I think it is really important to show the economic argument behind getting people online. By being online there are massive savings for people personally, rich rewards for their career prospects and also big savings for the government.
Martha Lane Fox: over 10 million in UK never been online

Her aim is to have everyone online by 2012, the London Olympics, and hopes to achieve this through local community organisations and peer to peer networks.  To help with this the Digital Inclusion Task Force have launched the following website: http://raceonline2012.org/

Further Reading:

Digital Inclusion Statistics

This is a presentation delivered by Helen Milner to the National Digital Inclusion Conference in London on the 27 April 2009.  The slides contain a number of key statistics on the digital divide in the UK which you may find useful.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Internet

myguide is a website that offers an easy and clear introduction to the internet for absolute beginners.

It provides free email, internet search and basic IT courses.  It is also possible to personalise your experience by saving settings such as colour scheme, text size and screen resolution – a very useful feature.

The ‘Welcome courses’ require no registration and will provide a great way for many learners to address any online fears, particularly the ‘Feeling fine online’ course which includes video feedback from learners.  Courses within the other categories of ‘First & Next steps’ and ‘Moving on’ do require registration but after the ‘Welcome courses’ this should not be a problem.

This is a very useful starter tool for those who wish to embrace the benefits of the internet and join the digital revolution.  Visit AbilityNet to read more about this website.

myguide appears to be English based so if you’re looking for any local basic IT courses in Northern Ireland try the free EGSA course search or telephone one of our helpful advisers on 0845 602 6632.