To many of us, the internet is one thing we really couldn’t live without. We use it to communicate with our loved ones, to find out the latest news and sports scores, and to do everything from our banking to our Christmas shopping.
But that’s not the case for everyone in the UK. In fact, there are 12.6 million adults who don’t have proficient digital skills. And this is a major problem.
Without online access or understanding, these people are missing out on potential jobs – 25% of job opportunities are made available online only. They can’t pay bills or check vital day-to-day information. And they’re deprived of the most efficient and simple way of communicating with their family and friends – which can lead to isolation, loneliness, or even ill-health.
Luckily, one organisation is looking to change this. They’re looking to give these 23% of UK adults the basic digital skills they need to take advantage of what the internet has to offer.
Chaired by Martha Lane-Fox, the founder of lastminute.com, Go ON UK actively works to identify opportunities and develop programmes that improve Basic Digital Skills. It provides best practice advice, tools and collaboration opportunities to improve local levels of digital skills, and runs various national partner programmes to enable more organisations to help accelerate digital learning across the UK.
It’s a hard-working, passionate project that’s doing a great job, and one that E.ON is proud to have worked with ever since we became a board partner of Go ON UK when it first launched in 2012.
On a recent mild November afternoon, we joined other Go ON UK friends and supporters at the quirky Matthew’s Yard café in the heart of Croydon, to mark the launch of the charity’s latest project, Go ON Croydon.
Croydon is known as one of the UK’s new ‘Tech Cities’ – it’s home to over a thousand digital, tech and creative start-ups and is officially London’s fastest growing tech start-up cluster.
This makes it the perfect location to pilot a series of innovative and creative projects that will encourage local residents and organisations across the London Borough to get online and improve their confidence and digital skills.
Working in conjunction with Croydon Council, local businesses, national organisations and other Go ON UK partners, the year-long digital skills programme will test, learn and share new ways of reaching those most in need of support.
And as Lane-Fox explained at the launch event, we can then replicate what’s been done in Croydon across the whole of the UK. “Access to the internet is a fundamental right,” she emphasised. “Croydon is a microcosm of the challenge we face in the UK. 85,000 people (in the Borough) don’t have digital access…that’s profoundly upsetting. ”
But it’s not just about the individual. Go ON UK is also helping small businesses and charities increase their digital proficiency. Currently, 58% of UK charities do not have the digital skills required to truly take advantage of the opportunities out there. That means they’re having to work much harder and use more resource than they really should.
Until recently, one such charity was Good Food Matters. The Croydon-based charity aims to educate and train people to grow and cook market sustainably produced organic food. The charity puts a particular focus on low-income families, teenage parents, young people not in education employment or training, older people and people with disabilities, and is doing an amazing job.
But as Evelyn Findlater and Amanda McGrath from Good Food Matters explained at the Go ON Croydon launch: “we couldn’t have developed the charity without the right digital skills….we’re now able to start managing successfully our site – and we’ve realised you don’t need to be a programmer to do it!”
It’s not all about taking advantage of the benefits that digital can bring, though. Go ON UK is also working with people to ensure they stay safe when online. Many without basic digital skills are scared to improve because they are sceptical about the security of their data, or don’t understand how to manage their identities or protect themselves from scams.
Go ON UK is working hard to ensure that everybody can get what they need from online tasks that many of us take for granted Rachel Neaman, Chief Executive of Go ON UK stated at the launch. “But we need to show them the benefits of the internet whilst staying safe online.” People, particularly those with vulnerable dispositions, need to be aware of malicious websites, copyright law, parental controls and the right to privacy.
That’s why projects like Go ON Croydon are so key, and why the whole Go ON UK initiative is something we’re truly proud to work with. We'll keep developing our online services to make sure our customers can easily access all our products and services, but we also want to support people who don't use these services at the moment.
And if we can all join forces to combat these issues, then we’ll be making some very important progress. Go ON Croydon is the next step on a very exciting journey. As Lane-Fox concluded at the recent launch: “This is one small step for Croydon, one giant leap for the UK.”
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