Government urged to encourage silver surfers

A report from the National Audit Office has urged the Government to boost the number of older people using e-government services...

A report from the National Audit Office has urged the government to boost the number of older people using e-government services as part of its strategy to bridge the UK's digital divide.

NAO head Sir John Bourn said, "More older people would be willing to use new technologies if they saw the benefit to them of doing so. The Office of the e-Envoy, [government] departments and agencies have a key role to play in publicising the benefits of e-services and providing older people with the encouragement and facilities to use them."

Figures released last October by the Office of National Statistics revealed that only 17% of over-65s have accessed the internet, compared with 94% of 16 to 24-year-olds.

The NAO report also found that many government websites fail to incorporate design features that would make it easier for older people to use them.

Bourn said, "If government is to take full advantage of the potential of technology, it must make sure its e-services are accessible to all and work to avoid a 'digital divide'."

.As part of its recommendations, the NAO urged the Office of the e-Envoy to define how it intended to measure progress towards the government's 2005 target for offering internet access to all who want it, as well as its criteria for assessing when the target is achieved. It also called on the government to undertake a marketing campaign designed to highlight the benefits of using e-services to older people.

Last year, a major international report from management consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton highlighted the challenge the UK faced in encouraging take-up of its e-government services. The report found that around 10% of the UK population had used online government services, compared with almost 50% of Canadians.

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