Digital inclusion seeks to help such people by understanding and addressing the financial, physical, and psychological barriers that stand in their way. BT has been helping people to get online since 2002 by bringing the benefits of ICT to disadvantaged communities across the UK.
As part of Race Online 2012 – a national challenge led by Martha Lane Fox, the government’s digital inclusion champion – BT has pledged its support to help get another 100,000 people online for the first time by the end of the London Olympic year.
To help achieve this goal, BT has launched the Get IT Together programme.The aim is to engage the entire BT organisation and work with its digital inclusion partners, to encourage more people to get online.
The BT Community Connections awards scheme provides internet access to grassroots organisations working to help local communities get online. Since the scheme was launched in 2000, over 7,000 award packages have been made to community groups throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
BT is also working with a number of partners, including the Institute of Directors and IT training specialist e-skills UK, in support of Getting British Business Online. This joint initiative widens the digital inclusion agenda to encourage small businesses that do not yet have a website to establish an online presence.
BT has been working with the Age UK charity (formerly Help the Aged and Age Concern) since 2005. Some 60 per cent of people over the age of 65 have never been online, compared with 18 per cent of all adults.
BT supports the Age UK Digital Inclusion Network, which has 178 member organisations throughout the UK delivering computer skills training to older people. By providing the right support and encouragement, it gives older people a reason to use the internet for the first time and the opportunity to develop skills and overcome fears.
Aimed at younger people, the BT Internet Ranger of the Year awards scheme recognises the valuable contribution of children under 16 to teaching older people about technology.
In partnership with national charity Citizens Online, BT has supported 23 projects since 2002 as part of the Everybody Online programme. In each case, a local project officer is employed to work with other stakeholders – typically social services, libraries, schools, and local charities – to tackle digital exclusion in areas facing disadvantage and low levels of internet usage.
In addition to working with charities and local communities, BT is committed to promoting inclusion through its products and services. A BT accessibility website, at www.bt.com/includingyou, gives the elderly and those with disabilities an easy route to BT services.
Caroline Sheridan, BT director of Corporate Responsibility, concludes: “Connecting people is at the heart of BT. We understand that it’s increasingly important for people to have confidence in using technology to help enhance their lives. Our commitment reflects the enormous potential digital inclusion has to make a positive difference, not only to the lives of individuals but also to society as a whole.”