Evaluation of the Wired Up Communities Programme has revealed that to bridge the divide between the information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will need much more than money. The Programme was launched in 2000 with 10 million pounds from the Capital Modernisation Fund to develop a series of pilot projects for connecting people in specified areas to the Internet. The aim was to ensure that communities experiencing social exclusion were not further excluded from engaging with online consumer and government services. Groups such as white working class males in a coalfield area, ethnic minorities, women, homeless, refugees and single parents were included in the projects.The survey found that 75% of people who received the technology, which included PCs and TV set top boxes, actually used it. The remainder said they were not interested or did not have the skills to use it. Only 40% of those who used the technology took advantage of online banking or shopping. One aim of the Programme was to promote economic inclusion and improve the employment prospects of people, but only ten people said it had enabled them to search for employment opportunities and investigate prospective employers.
The long-term aim of the programme was to improve social cohesion through greater use of the Internet. The survey investigated the extent to which the Internet had been used to find information about a variety of local organisations. It found that 15% of users had found information about a range of democratic and community based organizations, but less than 5% used it to send information to such a group.
The conclusion from the evaluation is that the easy partof bridging the digital divide is providing access to the Internet, the difficulty part is giving people the skills and motivation to use it.