Big Lottery Fund launches £15m online skills programme to tackle 'digital divide'

Dawn Austwick, chief executive of the BLF, says the scheme is to help people who rarely use the internet, such as isolated pensioners or unemployed young people

Dawn Austwick
Dawn Austwick

The Big Lottery Fund has launched a £15m programme to improve the basic online skills of people who rarely use the internet. 

The BLF is looking for national organisations or partnerships to come forward with ideas about how they could use between £5m and £15m to provide face-to-face training and support that would tackle the ‘digital divide’.

A survey by Ipsos Mori for the BBC this year found that 11 million people in the UK lack the online skills to make use of digital tools.

The funding programme is being developed with support from Go On UK, a charity that aims to improve the nation’s digital skills.

The online skills programme, which can be applied to through BLF’s website, has been established to increase the number of people who use computers regularly. Applications can be made through the BLF website.

A computer literacy survey by Ipsos Mori for the Prince’s Trust found that 35 per cent of young people not in education, employment or training rarely or never look for jobs online and 17 per cent would not apply for jobs that require basic computer skills.

Dawn Austwick, chief executive of the BLF, said: "As more aspects of everyday life move online, it is vitally important that people have the basic skills to participate fully.

"With our £15m investment, we have the opportunity to dramatically increase the number of people participating online, whether they are isolated pensioners or jobless young people, and help to prevent a huge division in society before it takes root."

The BLF is one of eight founding members of Go On UK. Other members include the BBC, Age UK, Lloyds Banking Group and the Post Office.

Graham Walker, chief executive of Go On UK, said: "We want everyone to be able to enjoy the many benefits of the internet – this means making sure as many people as possible have basic online skills."

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