Getting online in Gateshead

Last week, Go ON UK kicked off their digital inclusion programme in the north east, part of a series of regional efforts to get people online. So it seemed like the ideal time to give you an update on the work of the digital inclusion team as we get set up at GDS.

The challenge we’re facing

Go ON UK’s event brought together organisations from all corners of society to Gateshead, to launch their north east digital inclusion programme. We heard from Martha Lane Fox, local government leaders, business and charities about the major digital inclusion challenge we face and the great work that’s already under-way to help people, small businesses and charities get online.

Go ON UK estimates there are over half a million adults in the north east lacking basic digital skills, and Martha issued a challenge to reduce this number by at least 25% in 12 months. Local authorities, charities and businesses have signed up to this challenge and the work now begins. This programme builds on a successful pilot in Liverpool and is the first in a regional series being rolled out by Go ON UK to improve digital skills across the UK.

With 18% of adults in the UK still offline, a significant proportion of the population are not reaping the many benefits of being digital – socialising, saving money, having the skills to get and find a job, selling products online, and the list goes on. This is both a social and an economic challenge and it’s in all our interests to do something about it.

Martha Lane Fox at the launch of the Go On digital campaign at the Baltic in Gateshead.

Where government comes in

So what’s central government’s role in all this? There’s already important work going on, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s roll-out of superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017, the work the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills are doing to support small businesses and the upcoming campaign from the Home Office on staying safe online to name a few.

In June we also announced in the government’s information economy strategy, that we will be creating a new cross-government digital inclusion team based here at GDS. We are setting up the team as we speak and will be working with partners both within and outside of government to improve digital inclusion for individuals, businesses and charities.

What the digital inclusion team will be doing

We will focus our efforts on three main things:

  • review the evidence that’s out there and carry out some new research, to help us better understand what works and how to measure it
  • coordinate efforts in government departments and work closely with the devolved administrations, so they add up to more than the sum of their parts
  • partner with Go ON UK and local, public, private and voluntary organisations to improve and scale up existing efforts
  • One of the first things we’ll be working on as a team is a digital inclusion strategy which we will publish early next year. This will set out the nature of the challenge, the scale of our ambition and a clear plan of action. We want this strategy to be used as a call to action that everyone (government and beyond) can unite behind.

    There will be more on this soon as we will be seeking views from as many of you as possible as we develop this strategy over the coming months. Watch this space…

    Follow Anna-Maren on Twitter: @anna_maren
    Images courtesy Go ON UK and ncjMedia


    1. I was there too. Good event but really hot! We at @DigitalDurham are working on four areas:
      – NEETs
      – People in learning
      – Durham County Council employees
      – Town centres (how to use digital to regenerate town centres rather then destroy them)

    2. I was there also, excellent that all authorities in the North East are welcome to the Welfare Reform challenge. We can talk the talk, its time to walk the walk and get this rolled out effectively. I was too shy however to speak to Martha Lane Fox. Next time maybe. ;)

    3. This is going to be the most interesting strategy doc, so please put it up ASAP, even if its only a draft. Now that the GDS’s teams’ focus has moved from publishing to transactions, to finally this most important of stages, inclusion, could we also revisit that most horrible of concepts – a citizen’s account (as opposed to a bunch of user accounts).

      We all appreciate that big brother is watching, now that Snowden has pointed out the obvious (for anyone who understands how inter-networks are constructed). And some of us would like to have ALL of our public services personalized, even if we realize that it could lead to cross referencing between departments. So an opt in should be considered.

      Besides, if we are going to eventually have a digital world where services are created/shared between departments and their common citizens, we really do need to help the network guys who must compensate for the silos working in splendid isolation.

      Lastly, and this comes down to Phil’s note on People in Learning. Everything undertaken by GDS and peers so far is about info, and refining how people can find it more easily. That’s fine. But the search is never over. Too many ways of looking at the world I’m afraid. (Viva la difference). Tweaking ad infinitum, especially as laws change and departments reorganize.

      Sometimes we want to actually communicate (i.e. talk) with someone (while reading something). All learning environments have some form of real time communications. (RTC in network speak.) That’s well understood in the edu world. So it’s back to school for the GDS team. Be good and you might be given a lifelong learning account:) Might even help the shy types like Rich (and me).

      p.s. You might find this useful.
      You can imagine that the EC’s inclusion teams are having a much bigger challenge, with all the languages and cultures, including the UK ones.

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