Tech companies including Microsoft and Comet have signed up as commercial partners for Race Online 2012, a scheme aimed at getting most of the UK population online by the end of the London Olympic year.
The programme, led by the government’s ‘digital champion’ Martha Lane Fox, aims to get 600,000 new users online before 2013. 10 million adults across the UK have never used the internet, of which four million are also socially excluded.
Comet hopes to get 50,000 individuals through in-store online training for seniors, projects with charity and community partners and by offering a low-cost computer package for first time users.
Hugh Harvey, managing director of Comet, said: “We are proud to have been selected as one of Race Online 2012’s founding partners and look forward to using our specialist credentials to help bridge the digital divide. The advantages of being online cannot be underestimated, both in terms of the financial savings and the educational benefits.”
Internet service providers BT, TalkTalk and Sky will each aim to get 100,000 new users online by encouraging staff or customers to ‘Pass IT on’ to friends and family. TalkTalk will also be trialling a scheme to offer discounted broadband to those who complete a course at UK online centres.
Microsoft, meanwhile, will try to bring 250,000 new users online through its Britain Works initiative and will run a ‘Pass IT on’ campaign for its 32,000 partners and over 700 Microsoft Academies.
Microsoft UK managing director Gordon Frazer said: “Now, more than ever before, it’s decision time on the digital divide. As a nation, we need to take people with us as technology advances. Microsoft believes that British businesses have a serious responsibility to work with Government and organizations to address this important issue – partnership is key.”
Google is creating a simple guide to the internet, which will be distributed nationwide. The firm will also work with developers to create and launch new online tools to make the web more accessible, and create a Race Online 2012 YouTube channel.
Skype will provide special training for its staff and will also encourage its users to ‘Pass IT on’ to offline family and friends.
“The level of vision and commitment from our first wave Race Online 2012 partners has been extraordinary,” said digital champion Martha Lane Fox. “The Race Online 2012 ambition will create profound social and economic change and will mark a step change for the country as a whole. Together we are within reach of our goal to enable the 4 million most socially excluded to benefit from the opportunities and cost efficiencies that the web has to offer”.