Government pledges to reduce digital divide by 25%

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Government pledges to reduce digital divide by 25%

Caroline Baldwin

The government has launched a Digital Inclusion Strategy to reduce the number of UK people who are not online by 25%.

The strategy brings together 40 public, private and voluntary sector organisations who have signed a UK Digital Inclusion Charter to get 2.7 million additional people online by 2016, and a further 25% every two years after that.

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According to the Minister for civil society, Nick Hurd, encouraging more people online is crucial to create a more competitive economy and a fairer society.

“A more digitally skilled nation will help boost our economy and strengthen communities,” Hurd said. “This new partnership is about making it easier for people to build their digital skills and confidence, with the aim of reducing the number of people offline, so that by 2020 everyone who can be online, will be.”

The Digital Inclusion Strategy Actions are:

1.    Make digital inclusion part of wider government policy, programmes and digital services

2.    Establish a quality cross-government digital capability programme

3.    Give all civil servants the digital capabilities to use and improve government services

4.    Agree a common definition of digital skills and capabilities

5.    Boost Go ON UK's national partnership programme across the country

6.    Improve and extend partnership working

7.    Create a common language for digital inclusion

8.    Bring digital capability support into one place

9.    Deliver a digital inclusion programme to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs)

10. Use data to measure performance and improve what we do.

Helen Milner CEO, Tinder, a not-for-profit, staff-owned mutual that aims to bridge the digital UK divide, told Computer Weekly earlier this year that 11 million people across the UK are struggling to connect to the internet, either because they don’t know how or are too poor to get online.

A large proportion of those 11 million people live in the most deprived areas of the UK, and while the government is pushing for more public services to be digitised and placed online, this particular cross section of the country does not even have the basic means to access the internet, never mind using online public services.

The new government strategy includes a national programme of support that will bring together funding for digital skills projects. This will open up the market to new providers, improve partnership working and give service providers greater clarity.

The government is urging businesses to expand their role in tacking digital exclusion, and has signed a charter with 40 partners including BBC, Asda, Google, Microsoft, Post Office, Vodafone and EE.

Olaf Swantee, chief executive of EE, said: “There are millions of UK citizens who remain unconnected to the digital world simply because they were never given the opportunity to learn, did not understand the benefits, or were afraid to ask someone how to get online. 

"That’s why, last year, EE hosted more than a hundred events to help get these people connected. This year, we’ll be going even bigger, bringing our Techy Tea Party events to all of our 600 stores, our offices and our contact centres right across the UK.” 

The strategy will also back a number of events and masterclasses with Go ON’s national programme and digitalskills.com.

Graham Walker, CEO Go ON UK and Baroness Lane-Fox, Chair Go ON UK said: "Working in partnership is key to ending digital poverty and equipping small businesses and charities with the digital skills they now need to succeed.”


Digital Inclusion Strategy partners

• Asda will launch a national programme of free face-to-face advice sessions on going online in 60 of their stores with The Tinder Foundation. Asda’s face-to-face advice sessions will include how to set up an email account, how to Skype relatives, how to switch energy providers, manage household budgets and deal with debt.

• EE will launch a National Techy Tea Party Day in all its stores, contact centres and offices, across the UK on 9 September, providing support for those seeking help with their digital skills. At National Techy Tea Parties guests from charities such as Age UK will spend around two hours one-to-one with an EE Digital Champion to help them with their tech challenges. EE employees volunteered at over 100 Techy Tea Parties across 2013 and National Techy Tea Party day will be the first time EE holds the sessions in its store up and down the country.

• More than half of UK adults use a smartphone, tablet or other mobile devices to get online. Vodafone will release a new Smartphone Guide available in its 360 stores from 16 April and will be publishing a report on the important role smartphones can play in closing the digital divide later this month.


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