Although the majority of UK citizens are connected via the internet, millions remain unable to use it for even simple tasks. In some cases this is due to lack of access to a computer and/or an internet connection. However, some people are connected but merely lack the skills and confidence associated with Internet literacy that many of us take for granted.
Internet usage can enhance wellbeing and social inclusion. Council services and health information can be accessed online, and social connectivity through email, Skype and social media can all ease isolation. Equally, it is beneficial for online engagement initiatives – the internet makes it possible to consult with a wider range of community and social groups which have previously proven hard to reach. Therefore, it is important that local authorities take note of and support schemes that promote digital inclusion in their communities.
Here are some examples of UK initiatives that are aimed at promoting internet literacy:
UK Online Centres co-ordinates 3,800 community-based online centres that are aimed at helping those unfamiliar with the internet to get online. The centres are not only based in libraries and community centres but also in more unusual locations such as pubs and cafes.
BT’s Internet Rangers project provides free resources for young people in order to encourage them to share their internet skills with older members of their community. The company also run a Community Connections Award which rewards groups that improve internet access in their community and are working with the charity Scope on a research project aimed at improving internet access for people with disabilities.
And it’s not just charities and the private sector that are working in this area; the UK government are also taking steps to combat the digital divide.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is responsible for welfare and pension policy, has recently outlined plans to provide online support for benefit claimants who may require assistance in using the Internet.
This support is to be targeted towards those who either do not have internet access or those who lack confidence in using the internet, in the hope it will help them take advantage of DWP’s online services. You can learn more about the forthcoming initiative on Government Computing.
These are only a few of many options available in the UK for improving digital literacy. Many charities and organisations across the country are working hard to improve internet skills in their communities. The more that councils can support and promote these initiatives, the more people they will be able to reach through online engagement efforts.