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BIG funding to close the digital divide

11 May 2013

Big Lottery Fund (BIG) Chief Executive, Peter Wanless, explains why the UK must close the digital divide by building the basic online skills of people and organisations so they can take full advantage of the benefits the Internet has to offer.

BIG is today announcing an investment of up to £15 million to help, and in this blog Peter urges other organisations to connect people to online services that will improve their quality of life.

Most people think of the UK as digitally well connected. However, more than 16 million adults in the UK don’t have the basic online skills to benefit fully from the internet, and around 7.4 million have never used a computer or the Internet.

This means that some of the most vulnerable people in society are missing out on:

    • Easy ways to find out about local events, meet new people and keep in contact with friends and relatives;
    • Get the best prices for goods and services and find important information fast;
    • Be as job-ready as they might be. Recent research by the Prince’s Trust (PDF) found that a significant proportion of young people looking for work lacked the digital capability to apply with confidence.

Leave this unchecked and the digital divide will only get wider. It’s an issue that a funder with a mission to support communities and people most in need cannot afford to ignore.

That’s why the Big Lottery Fund is a founder member of Go On UK and why we are demonstrating our commitment to addressing this matter by announcing that we will make up to £15 million available to those who can convincingly demonstrate how they will connect those who currently remain disconnected from  online services that will improve their quality of life.

Older women use computer

Around 7.4m people in the UK have never used a computer or the internet

We expect the programme to be open for applications in the autumn. In the meantime we’re asking people to start thinking now about the partnerships they can establish that will convincingly inspire people across the UK to get online.

Our plan is only to make a very small number of transformational grants. Competition will be intense so consider how best you can draw on the skills, reach and influence of others.

We are at a turning point with digital technology when the actions we take now can define how society looks in the future.

Connecting everyone to online services in ways they will see as helpful and relevant will equip an entire nation with the chance to access a world that could otherwise remain closed in ways that will compound the disadvantage already felt by those most in need.

I look forward to other organisations pledging their support to the Go On UK cause and demonstrating how they can help connect the whole of the UK up to a future online.

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