About nine million people in the UK have never used the internet. Many are from disadvantaged sectors of society and could benefit significantly from getting online. In areas of social deprivation, the internet offers opportunities to search for jobs and shop more cheaply. Social networking and forums bring human contact to the isolated, such as those with mobility problems and full time carers.
BT is dedicated to helping such people. The most significant factor preventing people from using the internet is lack of confidence, with many saying they would go online if someone were to show them how. The BT Get IT Together programme – which is part of the company’s wider commitment to digital inclusion – addresses this issue by encouraging internet users to share their experiences and IT skills with other people.
BT Community Connections
One element of the programme is the BT Community Connections award scheme, which awards free broadband to charities and other community groups that help people to get online. Since its launch in 2000, more than 7,000 awards have been made to organisations throughout the UK. BT Community Connections welcomes applications from charities and other organisations that can demonstrate how they are encouraging members of their community to get online – teaching people about the incredible benefits of the internet and how to use it. Priority is given to organisations operating in areas of social deprivation.
Jobchange – a Wolverhampton-based charity that offers support and training to the long-term unemployed – was awarded a year’s free broadband by BT Community Connections in 2011. It has enabled the charity to run Get Online introductory sessions for its clients, most of whom have never used the internet before.
Kim, a former client at Jobchange, says: “I was an unemployed single mum with no prospects at all, until one day I wandered past Jobchange and saw an advert for their Get Online sessions. It’s fair to say the course has changed my life – after learning IT skills, I was able to get a job in administration at Wolverhampton City Council.”
Young People Cornwall is a charity providing support for 11 to 25-year-olds in some of the county’s most socially deprived rural areas. It runs specialist programmes to address issues that put young people at risk – including homelessness, mental health, poverty and rural isolation.
BT Community Connections awarded the charity a year’s free broadband at its youth centre in Roche. Anna Trewhella, project manager for the centre, says: “The internet enables young people in isolated areas to reach out to the wider world – offering better opportunities in education and employment, and enabling them to build a broader network of friends. Young People Cornwall promotes using the internet and provides a safe environment to get more local young people online.”
As well as the organisations featured here, more than 145 charities and community groups throughout the UK were awarded free broadband by BT Community Connections during the 2011 financial year.