Martha Lane Fox, UK digital champion, says we all have a role to play in closing the digital and social divide. She shares her views on how universities can help widen access to digital technologies.
Technology has disrupted every industry and every activity. In 2006, there were 2.7 billion searches across all the search tools on the web. In 2010, there were 31 billion searches on just Google from the UK alone. In 2007 62% of us in the UK could use the internet. Now that figure has reached 82.5%. We actually lead the world with the percent of our internet users who have broadband.
Our government also took some very bold steps last year. They opened up all the data that government has, and slowly, department by department, all the information they hold, is being put out online.
However, there are still nine million people in this country who have never used the internet. These nine million break down in an interesting way and shows that this is not just a digital divide but a very deep social one too. 6 million are over 55 years old. Four million fall into three or more of the multiple deprivation indices. Thirty percent live on under £10,000 a year, 39% are over 65 years old, 38% are unemployed, and 19% are families with children.
Digital exclusion correlates closely with economic disadvantage too. This makes for a big north-south gap: the north-east of England, Liverpool, Glasgow and the coastal Scotland are among the lowest in usage, and 70% of people who live in social housing have never been online.
Both individuals and UK plc stand to benefit from action to bring more of us online. To the individual, it's now absolute fact that your chances of getting a job and what you will earn in that job, all increase if you are online.
For the unemployed, you are 25% more likely to find work.
Feelings of loneliness drop by 80%, confidence levels increase by 60%. It is now one of our primary routes to information and education.
How could universities help the nine million become part of this new world?
Join the Race Online 2012 campaign by signing up as a partner.
- Help us to extend supported access to the internet by recruiting digital champions among your staff and students to support family, friends and neighbours take their first steps online
- Work in partnership with your local schools, libraries and colleges to extend access to the Janet network, IT kit and resource to your wider communities
- Widen access to your inspiring online content that could act as a major motivator for off-liners to go online and pursue their passions and interests
We look forward to working with Jisc to help make sure that no-one is left behind.
Watch Martha as she explains the Race Online 2012 vision
This article originally featured in issue 30 of Jisc Inform (UK web archive)