Headlines: April 10th, 2003

A campaign to connect the ‘hard to reach’ members of society to the Internet will be launched by the Office of the e-Envoy next month. Although 62% of adults in the UK have accessed the internet at some time and 52% are regular users, there are 17 million people who have never logged on. ‘Online Nation’ will aim to raise awareness of the benefits of the Internet and break down the barriers that people face when getting online for the first time. Bridging this digital divide between the information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is vital to the success of e-Government.A major barrier in connecting people to the Internet is a lack of understanding about how it could be personally relevant. The groups who are least likely to be aware of what the Internet can do for them include elderly people, those in low income households, disabled people and the long-term unemployed.

‘Online Nation’ will be launched on 12 May and run until 7 June. Around 6,000 UK online centres – based in libraries, community centres and a range of convenient locations – will offer a free introductory session to the Internet to anyone who wants it. The Office of the e-Envoy is working with Resource, University for Industry and the Department for Education and Skills to ensure the engagement of as many UK online centres as possible and to encourage centres to supplement national and regional initiatives with their own local activity. In addition there will be regional TV programmes and community service announcements to demonstrate how people have benefited from using the internet.

The Office of the e-Envoy is working with a number of companies and voluntary organisations to deliver the campaign. These include the BBC, Arriva Group, BT plc, Dixons Stores, the Prince’s Trust, the National Library for the Blind, and Citizens Advice.