Does everybody need to be online?

11 May 2011


Nine million people living in the UK have never been on the web. They don’t talk to friends via email, shop online or even have a Facebook account.

Government digital champion Martha Lane Fox launched the campaign

As someone who has used the internet since the age of 11, I find this a bit difficult to grasp. My generation has been all about researching school projects online, buying clothes from the comfort of my laptop and finding car insurance quotes on the web.

But it’s not the same story for everyone. Of the nine million who have never used the internet, some 7.3 million are aged 55 or over, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Government hopes to encourage some of these people online with the Race Online 2012 initiative.

Refurbished desktop PCs will be sold for around £100, while 100,000 ‘digital champions’ are being recruited to help people get online for the first time.

Why is it important?

With an increasing number of government services, retailers and banks ramping up their online presence, or going online-only, it’s vital for everybody to be online.

Post Offices have been slowly disappearing from our towns and villages over the years, especially in rural areas, but many of the services they once provided can be accessed using a desktop PC.

Those who haven’t ventured online yet might be quite happy filling in a paper form to renew their car tax, but it’s dead easy to complete online. Other odd jobs like paying your council tax, booking squash courts and finding an NHS dentist can all be done from your laptop.

If any of those who are yet to use the internet are looking for work in the newspapers and on notice boards then they may feel they’re doing enough. But there’s thousands more posts to be found online.

Using the internet has become vital in modern society – and that’s before considering all the fun bits like downloading music, playing games and reading blogs.

Can it work?

The Race Online 2012 campaign hopes to make the UK “the world’s first networked nation”, which is a pretty broad ambition.

If the campaign can find 100,000 volunteers to get involved in their community and give people a taste of what the internet is like, then it stands a good chance of success.

Perhaps those who enjoy their first steps into the online world will one day find themselves waking up to check their emails on a tablet!

Do you know anyone who has never used the internet? Would you consider becoming a digital champion? Comment below…