Government seals ties for 'web inclusion' plan

LONDON - The government has launched a campaign promoting the benefits of the internet to the 'socially excluded'.

Led by entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, the government's champion for digital inclusion, ‘Race Online 2012' is backed by BT, Channel 4, Microsoft and Age Concern.

The government claims that 10m adults in the UK have never used the internet and 4m are ‘socially excluded' from the web. Of these 4m, 39% are over the age of 65.

Despite the push, Ofcom has turned down a request by Channel 4 to help fund a project called ‘old season'.

The broadcaster is understood to have asked for £500,000 to develop digital activity that would have run around a special season of programmes in November, aimed at older viewers.

Channel 4 shows 10 Years Younger, How to Look Good Naked, Embarrassing Bodies and The Home Show will focus on the over-60s in a week of programming challenging the stereotypes of older people. The programmes are still scheduled to go ahead without the online element.

Ofcom said it ‘did not have enough time' to give Channel 4's request for funds ‘proper consideration'.

In its Digital Britain report, the government encouraged public-service broadcasters to create content that promoted digital participation.

Race Online 2012 will inform people that they could save an average of £560 a year by shopping and paying their bills online.

The campaign will involve commercial groups and local authorities working together to raise awareness of the benefits of online access. The project will run alongside work by a consortium led by Ofcom also promoting digital participation. Overseen by Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms, it has more than 50 members, including BT, the BBC and Sky.

UK Online Centres, an organisation funded by the government, is promoting a series of events for Get Online Day this Friday (23 October).

In my view   Expert comment

Neil Hughston, Managing partner, digital, Grey

From a media perspective, we want to get everyone online as quickly as possible, and it comes down to affordability. The answer is getting local authorities, which are closer to the socially excluded, more involved, perhaps by giving web access through libraries. The activity has some big partners and they are going about the communication of this in the right way. Martha Lane Fox is a public face, so it will be driven by a lot of support.



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