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Martha Lane Fox Targets SMBs With Go ON UK

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
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Broad partnership aims to get remaining eight million online

UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox has launched a new partnership, Go ON UK, which aims to improve the IT skills of SMEs, charities and the remaining 8.2 million adults who still do not use the Internet.

Founding partners, including Lloyds, the Post Office and the BBC, will pool together resources, expertise and networks in what has been described as a “radical cross-sector partnership” to boost the digital capability of the country.

Broad partnership

“The UK leads the world in most indicators of digital capability: the internet contributes more to our GDP than to that of any other G20 county and is predicted to grow 11 percent a year to reach £221 billion by 2016,” said Lane Fox. “However, many individuals and organisations still struggle to exploit the broader benefits of technology, a problem that is particularly acute for our small businesses, older people and charities that are currently at risk of being left behind.”

“Go ON UK has an exciting vision to make the UK the world’s most digitally capable nation where no one – old or disadvantaged and no organisation – even the smallest – is left behind,” she added.

A recent Ofcom report revealed that half of those aged 65 or older did not see the need for an Internet connection, but the campaign aims to introduce them to the social and financial benefits that it can offer, claiming that 81 percent of computer literate older people say they feel more part of modern society.

Go ON UK also says that 14 percent of SMEs sell products and services online while ICT is the charity sector’s biggest skill gap.

In October, Lane Fox launched a campaign to encourage the public to use the extra hour they gained from the clocks being put back to teach non-users IT skills. That formed part of a wider campaign, Race Online 2012, which attempted to persuade 100,000 people to volunteer to help those who remained offline.

Digital UK

This new initiative is also based on Race Online 2012, but Lane Fox claimed it will have broader remit, with the board developing a national plan of activities and the Go ON UK vision for 2020.

“Evidence shows that SMEs with a web presence do get significant benefits with 68 percent saying it saves time and/or money and 37 percent agreeing it increases sales volumes,” added Lane Fox. “The charity sector is facing unprecedented funding cuts and rising demand for services. Working with charities to use technology to deliver the best services possible for end users and take the cost out of their business has never been more urgent.”

“Failing to act now would result in charities and small businesses operating at a significant disadvantage as the rest of the UK becomes increasingly digital,” she added.

“The BBC has an important role to play alongside other organisations in making the UK a fully digitally literate nation,” said Mark Thompson, the Director-General of the BBC, one of the founding partners. “We have already demonstrated our commitment to getting people online through campaigns such as First Click and Give an Hour and we are committed to supporting our audience as they build on and strengthen their digital skills and confidence.”

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