Councillor Neelie Kroes is targeting Internet virgins across the EU this week
The European Commission has officially launched a pan-European Get Online Week, which will include events across Europe designed to bring the 200 million “offline” Europeans into the Internet age.
Get Online Week was launched at an event on 24 February in Brussels, with the attendance of Neelie Kroes, European commissionner responsible for the Digital Agenda, and Philippe Courard, Belgium’s secretary of state for Social Integration and the Fight Against Poverty.
Kroes pushed a symbolic launch button and watched as the first person went online at Interface3, a nongovernmental organisation in Brussels that works with disadvantaged women to provide IT skills. Other official private sector partners include digital inclusion organisation Telecentre-Europe.
“We are looking to raise awareness of the importance of digital skills and ultimately enable people to participate fully in society,” said Ian Clifford, deputy chair at Telecentre-Europe, in a statement. “We hope to be one of the grassroots drivers behind the European commissioner’s five-year goal of halving the number of Europeans who have never been online.”
The event will include training events such as open access sessions, workshops and local demonstrations at centres in 28 countries across Europe.
The events will target those at risk of being socially and economically marginalised through their lack of digital skills, such as mums returning to work, the unemployed and disabled.
“With 30 per cent of Europeans never having used the Internet it is vital we address this situation,” said Gabi Barna, chair at Telecentre-Europe, in a statement.
Microsoft is supporting the event as part of its Unlimited Potential Community Technology Skills Programme.
“Digital competence is a necessity in virtually every sector of the economy, from healthcare and construction to agriculture and manufacturing,” said Sylvie Laffarge, director of community affairs at Microsoft, in a statement. “And it’s key to people’s own empowerment and social inclusion.”
Last year the UK staged a Get Online Week led by UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox, who is trying to get the last remaining ten million Brits online.
This is despite the fact that Lane Fox has no budget to complete the project.