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Race Online 2012 'Networked Nation' manifesto launched
Monday 12 July 2010 11:00:24 by John Hunt

A manifesto from the UK's Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox, calls for urgent action to get millions of people online by the end of 2012 and also has an ambition to get everyone of working age online by the end of this Parliament to ensure that when people retire, they will have the skills to reap the benefits that the web delivers. Around 10 million people in the UK have never used the Internet and these people are losing out both economically and socially by staying offline according to the document.

"Networked Nation is a rallying cry for the 40 million internet users in the UK to help 10 million people who have yet to enjoy the huge benefits of the web that the vast majority of us enjoy every day. By getting more people online, everyone wins. Businesses are competing for more online customers. Government needs to deliver better for less. Charities want to support the people they serve better. So we are calling on them to work together and tackle the unfairness and lost opportunities caused by digital exclusion, and deliver positive social change."

Martha Lane Fox, UK Digital Champion

The make up of the 10 million is weighted towards the older age group with one in two of those aged 65-74 offline and over three quarters of those aged 75 or over. Of the younger age groups only 10% of people aged 16 to 24 are offline. The highest density of those offline are in northern England and Scotland. Part of this will be due to poor availability of access such as those who live in broadband not-spots.

The many benefits of getting online are discussed in the manifesto with various stats and figures to back up the claims. Getting everyone online could bring an estimated £22 billion of economic benefit to the UK economy. Much of the savings can be achieved through lower costs at government that this would introduce as each contact and transaction with government reportedly costs between £3.30 and £12. Only 20% of public services are currently online, but government does need to be careful how it spends its money making services available, avoiding repeats of things such as the £105m website. Talking to The Today Programme on Radio 4, Lane Fox said that the UK government must think 'Internet first' to encourage services to be available on a mass scale quickly but she also pointed out that many people in government can't use the Internet which may prove a bit of a barrier to implementing this.

Consumer will get cost savings from being online through shopping and buying utilities online, with on average savings of £560 per year. Education is another way in which the nation can benefit. If the 1.6 million children in families without Internet access got online at home, it could boost their combined lifetime earnings by over £10 billion, and help them achieve a two grade improvement in a subject at GCSE. The web also helps improve social inclusion of older people with half of Internet users saying that the web increases contact with family and friends who live far away.

The question comes as to how to achieve the aims in the manifesto without funding from central government. Race Online are looking to their partners to achieve this who can help get more people online through strategies to communicate the benefits of the Internet. 437 companies have signed up to this so far with pledges to get 1.5 million new people online in the next few years. Lane Fox points out that many resources already exist to get people online including hundreds of computers in local schools that get locked up at night but could be used to grant people access to the 'net. Other recommendations include ensuring that cheap broadband is available via 'social tariffs' for those that are on low incomes or are looking for work.

The other side of the coin is that many of the 10 million that are being focused on may not have a wish to get online, but raising awareness of the benefits of the Internet could persuade them otherwise. The full manifesto can be read here.


Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
"The other side of the coin is that many of the 10 million that are being focused on may not have a wish to get online," I think that is the side of the coin that is more relevant in this age group. Many of that age are technophobes, not just computers and the Internet but anything technical and there's nothing wrong with that. You can't and shouldn't force people to get on the Internet. I'd question whether Martha is really focussed on consumer cost savings or 10 million more on-line customers. (rubs hands)..... Hmmm
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
.....Its bad enough that the elderly get preyed upon by high pressure doorstep sales without inviting it into the living room.
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
There is that, and of course the fact that some who would like to go on the internet can't or wont because the level of service would be low, and not worthwhile,or value for money due to the old outdated infrastructure and distance from exchange that they may live
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
I have a problem in that my line is somehow effected by another line, causing big problems, no one will sort it out or even look in to it,there will be plenty more of similar cases ,why not sort out this infrastructure that adsl is being asked to run on first?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Didn't even consider that... broadband costs money and with a wealth of pensioners struggling to meet the costs to heat their homes in winter why would they look to spend money on a laptop and the Internet?

Please don't say the costs will be offset by other savings... I wouldn't buy into that
Posted by dch3dwj over 6 years ago

I agree, there was a market analysis report for the Post Office (dunno why) which looked into offsetting the cost of the internet. In low income households the offset is either non-existant or marginal. The reason being that the internet helps you to save money of big purchases and is not so useful for clothes, food etc which is where low income households spend most money.
Posted by dch3dwj over 6 years ago
Also, as the Guido Fawkes blog pointed out this morning 20% of children are functionally illterate so is Digital Inclusion really the best way to spend money?
Posted by dch3dwj over 6 years ago
"Consumer will get cost savings from being online through shopping and buying utilities online, with on average savings of £560 per year."

Yes but for low income groups, who make a large proportion of the digitally excluded. It works at more like £12-24 per year for the lowest percentiles.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Was talking to one of my elderly neighbours today about this as he had read it in the paper. He is keen to try things like the Internet but he doesn't know where to start, whether to get a Laptop or a Desktop computer or what would be best for him. He's also a bit worried as he can't spell (almost ended up as a diver instead of a driver in the war!) so isn't if he'd be able to use it. There is definitely a knowledge gap in the 'where to start' section for this.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
^^ John, now that is where the schools that are closed on a night (as per article) could come in, using them to educate elderly who are interested is a great idea, again there's no way for them to afford pc techs to teach them the basics. I just see this being a very very niche area. I would think that for the majority of pensioners they either aren't interested or can't afford it or both.
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
Gman - Or they don't know what they are missing until they try it.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Just what i need at work more elderly sending the same email 5 times in a row because they didnt think it got sent in a blink of an eye

"UK's Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox"

Champion of what annoying two thirds of the population? *Insert rants accusing me of bashing every old person when i actually mean those that dont have a clue*
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
A lot of people still don't trust the internet for buying things online.

I personally find it safer than going to the high street.

For example going into a Three shop puts me at risk of being charged a higher price and being lied to.
Posted by broadband66 over 6 years ago
My 75 year old mother has no intention of getting a computer, let alone having access to the internet. If Martha could give credible arguments as to how she would benefit then she might reconsider.
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