IT literacy programme throws a digital lifeline to those left behind

The BCS has launched an IT literacy campaign to help the millions of people who risk exclusion from the growing number of online...

The BCS has launched an IT literacy campaign to help the millions of people who risk exclusion from the growing number of online government and other services.

Its new e-Citizen scheme aims to help people with little or no knowledge of computing get to grips with practical uses of the internet, including web searching, e-mail, discussion forums and online banking and shopping.

The courses last up to 30 hours and are run by colleges, schools or training firms approved by the BCS. Because the courses qualify for public funding, some people will be able to take them for free.

The introduction of the scheme follows BCS research which found that 26% of people in the UK had no access to a computer. In addition, 45% felt left behind by advances in technology, and 54% found computers complicated.

More than 60% had never had any formal ITtraining.

"We hope this new programme will overcome the current burgeoning digital divide," said BCS chief executive David Clarke.

"The government aims to provide the majority of public services online this year, so it is vital for everyone to gain a rudimentary grasp of basic computing skills to at least be able to access the internet and communicate via e-mail.

"Although positive steps have been taken to address this skills gap, such as free computer access in libraries and the growth of internet cafes, such initiatives still risk excluding significant groups in society, including the elderly or economically disadvantaged, who remain unskilled.

"E-Citizen will bridge this gap and help the many people who perhaps either remain intimidated by technology or are ignorant of the benefits of being online.

"All sectors of society should be able to benefit from the opportunities to save money by buying goods and services such as holidays online, to e-mail friends and family, to check their bank account and to safeguard their children's use of the internet."

The e-Citizen scheme is also being taken up in Finland, Greece and Italy. The BCS played a leading role in developing the scheme, which is overseen by the international body with overall responsibility for the European computer driving licence.

The driving licence is wider ranging than e-Citizen, also covering office software skills such as word processing and spreadsheets. It has been taken up by more than a million people in the UK alone.

More about the e-Citizen scheme www.ecitizen.co.uk or 01793 -417530

European computer driving licence www.bcs.org/ecdl

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