FOR most of us the Internet and email form part of everyday life.
Much of the business world would disintegrate without them. At home, being online provides ready information, communication, and a window on the world for those who live in relative isolation.
Yet, access to the Internet is not available to all: about 10 million adults are missing out. As I know from my work at DEFRA, the problem of Internet access is acute in rural areas because of the distances between habitation and difficult terrain. One third of all farmers don’t have Internet access and yet they are all required to file forms online. There are pockets of best practice e.g. where the local doctors’ surgery affords internet access to others out of surgery hours. I am exploring other ways to improve access and speed of broadband through pilots in rural areas.
This summer, the UK’s best known digital champion, Martha Lane Fox, announced plans to get everybody of working age in Britain online by the end of the current Parliament.
The ‘Networked Nation Manifesto’, published in July, highlighted the lack of Internet access among the disadvantaged, unemployed and retired. Over half of people aged 65 and above have no Internet access. The report highlighted the benefits that online access could give to the elderly by providing a lifeline from social isolation, experienced by an estimated 3.1 million people.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, backed the campaign, saying: “Digital inclusion is essential for a modern dynamic economy.”
Now, Race Online 2012 is asking for people, who are already online, to volunteer, donate money or equipment, take part in organising events, or contribute their own ideas about how to get others connected.
If you would like to be part of the campaign, please check out www.raceonline2012.org.