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UK: Go On, Help to Get Everyone Online
Source: http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=18193
Source Date: Monday, November 28, 2011
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Europe
Created: Nov 28, 2011

In ambition, ideas and human capital, central government has made huge strides in terms of technology over the past year. By aiming to lead the world in the digital delivery of public services, Whitehall stands to make huge savings and radically improve people's lives by introducing them to this vital 21st century literacy.

Increasing the number of online contacts we as citizens make with public services stands to save £2bn a year. Some of the benefits of web access include the fact that you're 25 per cent more likely to get a job, and once in work, you'll earn 10 per cent more. Of course there are huge benefits in terms of consumer savings, educational opportunities and increased social contact.

It's great that government is playing such a leading role, but I'm convinced that to really create a more digitally capable country we need a broad spectrum of public sector bodies – and particularly the individuals within them – to champion this work within their organisations and to customers.

The current economic climate makes this ever more urgent – we need these skills for the future competitiveness of UK plc and to improve the quality of our delivery of services.

A high proportion of our 1,300 or so Race Online 2012 partners are from the public sector, launching brilliant bespoke initiatives that go with the grain of their business and make the most of their contacts.

Here are a few examples of how public sector organisations are implementing their support:

• Jobcentre Plus now has digital champions in all its offices, signposting people to online services and pointing those without skills to local free access and training places, like the UK online centre network and public libraries

• Unionlearn is encouraging employers to ensure nobody retires or faces redundancy without digital skills and is running events across the 470 community based learning centres

• The Post Office is training all its 4,500 crown staff on digital champion roles

• The Department of Education, Times Educational Supplement and the BBC are working together to encourage schoolchildren to sign up as champions in their community

• NHS Choices has created activity sheets and tutorials to help digital champions get someone online using their healthy living tools.

All of these plans are being delivered by digital champions within these organisations, people who are in turn recruiting and mobilising more digital champions within their staff to reach the communities they serve. It's replicable, it's scalable and it's something I'd urge every public sector executive to actively promote.

The second mechanic where the public sector can make a really powerful contribution is by working at local authority level. Liverpool City Council has made a long-term commitment to really drive digital literacy in the city.

The "Go ON it's Liverpool" programme is focusing on the benefits a fully networked city would bring to both citizens and the business community. The aim is to cut the total number of citizens who remain offline by 25,000 by next June. This will be achieved through a network of 5,000 digital champions – including the city's 90 elected councillors who unanimously supported the motion last month. Subsequent, coordinated action will knit together the city's local government, business, and community networks with our Race Online 2012 national partners and tools.

A great outcome for us from this work, apart from the social and economic transformation, will be a readily replicable roadmap for joined-up activity that I hope will inspire and make it much easier for more local authorities to demonstrate this kind of leadership. Broadband Delivery UK has pledged to make this Go ON model a condition of funding for the four-year £530m central government broadband infrastructure pot.

Liverpool has timed its launch to dovetail with the massive national awareness-raising campaign, Go ON Give an Hour. There are more than 3,800 UK online centres across England and 1,500 BBC First Click centres across the UK offering free or low-cost help and support to those starting out on the web.

In addition, all sorts of other companies and charities are taking part: high streets and local communities across the country have seen the likes of libraries, Three, Age UK, Sky, Mecca Bingo, Unionlearn, TalkTalk, Post Office and Wetherspoon's pubs throw open their doors and encourage their staff to Give an Hour and show people how magic the web really is.

Branches of Lloyds, schools and about 50,000 scouts have been running community events to promote the drive. It's not too late to draw up your own simple partnership pledge at www.raceonline2012.org and to capitalise on this activity.

You can download communication toolkits from www.raceonline2012.org/places; promote the national Freephone number 0800 77 1234 via your comms channels and pledge to give an hour yourself at www.go-on.co.uk/giveanhour, where you'll receive exciting ideas, tools and tips to help others get online.
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