As FreshwindsIT reaches its 1,000th learner, we were invited to meet Skills Minister John Hayes and UKOnline staff to celebrate the overall project success of reaching 1,000,000 learners.
One million new online citizens celebrated
A special event, attended by Skills Minister John Hayes, was held yesterday to mark a major milestone in the quest to close the digital divide.
UK online centres have supported one million people to use computers and the internet since April 2010, saving government £184 million in the process by encouraging people to do more online. The Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning popped in to celebrate such a major milestone – achieved 9 months ahead of schedule – and to meet some of the million whose lives have been changed by their news skills.
One learner who attended the event was Mary Westwood, from Birmingham, who first visited her local UK online centre, Freshwinds IT, three months ago. She says: “At first I was absolutely terrified of computers, I’d never used one before and I just thought I’d break it. But I actually found it easier than I expected. Now the scales have fallen from my eyes and I feel like I’m finally living in the 21st century!”
A secondary benefit to helping people to use computers and the internet has been the huge impact on the economy, driving down the cost of delivering online public services by encouraging people to do more online. Since April 2010, UK online centres has supported 460,000 people to transact with government online, bringing about a total saving of £184 million in the past 27 months.
On top of this, 8% of the learners they have supported since April 2010 – which equates to 80,000 people – have also found work since gaining skills at a UK online centre, boosting the economy further.
The organisation supports some of the hardest to reach people in the country (187% of UK online centres learners have one or more indicators of deprivation, 30% have a disability and 16% are from BAME groups), through a network of 3,800 local venues or outreach locations where people can gain the skills they need to use computers and the internet.
From left to right: Nyree Scott – Project Manager, Cambridgeshire Library Lerning Services; Roger Hamilton – Activity Development Worker/IT Trainer, St Mungos; Vicky McDougall – volunteer tutor, Cambridgeshire Library Learning Services; Helen Milner – Chief Executive Online Centres Foundation; Jason Hogarth – Department of Bussiness, Innovation and ; Dolly Westwood – learner, Fredhwinds IT; Lord (Jim) Knight of Weymouth – Chairman Online Centres Foundation; Adam Lloyd, IT Lead, Freshwinds IT; Roger Darlington – Online Centres Foundation Board Member; John Hayes MP – Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning; Dominic Steingold – tutor, Essex Libraries; Charlotte Wheat – Director of Business Development, Online Centres Foundation; Jan Cripps, tutor – Ashton Learning Centre; Martin Wilson – Director of Policy, Go ON UK; Shannon Smith – volunteer tutor, Ashton Learning Centre
John Hayes MP, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, was on hand to congratulate UK online centres on their achievement, and see first hand the real impact being online can have on the lives of individuals. He says: “Most of us take for granted using the internet to stay in touch with friends and family through Facebook, find a new job or order shopping. However more than one in ten people have no access leaving them cut off and isolated.
“That’s why it is fantastic news that UK online centres have helped more than one million people to access the web. Digital skills change people’s lives for the better helping them to feel part of a modern society”.
Mr Hayes also took the opportunity to announce a six-month action research project, which will be managed by Online Centres Foundation that will test thinking around eReading Rooms. These eReading Rooms centres will provide free and friendly access to computers, where individuals and communities will be able to use the power of the internet to discover and explore any subject of their choosing. Twenty UK online centres will be involved in the project which will Include robust evaluation, with Online Centres Foundation providing recommendations to the Government on how this might be rolled out nationwide in 2013.
Helen Milner, Chief Executive of UK online centres says: “Reaching this milestone – nine months ahead of our target – is a huge achievement, and seeing some of the great learners who have benefitted from being online has been a great reminder of why this is so important.
As more people learn to use computers and the internet, digital skills are becoming more of a priority and not less, and I’m passionate that this is something that needs continued support in the coming months and years. I’m delighted we have reached such a momentous milestone, and the eReading Rooms pilot is a sign that we continue to move in the right direction, but with 8 million people offline, and many millions more lacking the basic skills to use computers and the internet, we still have a long way to go.”
For more information, please contact Chris Andersson on 0114 296 5584 or email