The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) is donating £15 million to help tackle the digital divide through charity Go ON UK. The cash will help build skills that people and organisations need in order to take full advantage of support and services available online.
There are said to be 16 million people in the UK who currently lack the basic online skills to confidently make full use of digital tools available to them, and 7.4 million people who have never been online before.
BIG is developing a funding programme with Go ON UK, who on Monday 13 May will gather senior UK digital leaders together at the Go ON UK Digital Skills CEO Summit. CEOs present will commit their organisations to play their part in making the UK "the world’s most digitally skilled nation", said Go ON.
BIG’s programme, which is still under development, will be open for applications in the autumn and BIG expects to fund a small number of UK-wide projects focussing on communities most in need.
BIG says it aims to build on the "huge success" of the Go ON Liverpool cross-sector partnership, which included £100,000 of funding from BIG and which helped to reduce the numbers offline in the city "by 55 per cent in just 18 months".
Go ON UK chair, Baroness (Martha) Lane-Fox has also unveiled plans to kick start a Go ON UK digital skills delivery strategy in the North East of England in October.
Big Lottery Fund chief executive Peter Wanless said: “BIG has £15 million available to the organisations who can demonstrate most convincingly to us how they will use the cash to turn the disconnected and disinterested into confident users of online services.
“We are alerting people now so potential applicants can develop the strongest and most convincing partnerships and plans that they can. We expect to fund only a handful of significant projects, so competition will be intense."
Baroness Lane-Fox said: “The Big Lottery Fund’s digital skills investment helps us deliver on Go ON UK’s objective to secure vital investment to build the digital skills of people and organisations across the UK. But we need other organisations to play their part and follow suit."
Go ON also already has the support of Age UK, BBC, E.ON, EE, Lloyds Banking Group, the Post Office and TalkTalk.
Prime minister David Cameron said of the Go ON campaign: “If we are to succeed in the global race it is vital that we ensure our people and businesses recognise the opportunities that the web offers, and have world-class digital skills. That is why this government is supporting Go ON's ambition to make the UK the world's most digitally skilled nation."
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