Making the Internet Accessible Will Have Far Reaching Benefits

The Internet has undergone extraordinary growth over the past decade. The recently published Digital Britain report highlighted just how significant the Internet is to our everyday life (for those of us who have access).

In the last year alone, the number of UK households with Internet access grew by 1.2 million and, with two thirds of homes now online, over 70 per cent of us use the Internet regularly.

Despite all the remarkable progress in the dissemination of the Internet, ten million people in the UK have still never been online. Of those, four million come from the most economically disadvantaged segments of society.

A study by the Office for Digital Inclusion has recently quantified the benefits of accessing the Internet, which include - but are not limited to - better education opportunities, job prospects and prosperity.

Being online can connect people to valuable information and save money on a variety of every-day tasks such as grocery shopping, paying bills or phone calls.

However, once people have access to broadband, they still need training to ensure proficiency as well as safety. Research from Ipsos MORI and UK online centres shows that schemes that provide Internet training and support can boost people's confidence, allowing them to proceed to further training, receive qualifications and ensure they are ready for the modern workplace.

Nominet Trust, a charitable Foundation that provides funds for innovative Internet projects that make a difference to society, are helping to put this theory into practice by supporting the development of online information centres in Cambridgeshire through Cambridge Library Learning Services, which provide local Internet access and computer training. These centres help users to discover and effectively use learning resources.

One of Cambridge Library Learning Services' centres is in Ramsey, one of the most deprived and isolated parts of Cambridgeshire. Certain parts of Ramsey town suffer from extremely slow or non-existent Internet connectivity making it difficult for people to use or learn about technology or gain the skills needed for employment.

The Ramsey information centre, a model for other such centres, is already making a significant difference to the lives of many local people. Most visit the centre to access the Internet and improve their computer based qualifications and job prospects.

This is accomplished through training and advice on how to search for jobs online. Several users have benefited from the service and have left the centres with credible qualifications and offers of employment.

These small scale initiatives are instrumental in tackling the issue of digital inclusion and must be supported, funded and encouraged to ensure the projects remain sustainable and scalable.

These initiatives, together with industry, government and third sector efforts, will help to bring more people online, and above all, create a well-informed society that can safely engage, be inspired by and benefit from the Web.