BT and Barclays join up to provide free wi-fi in libraries

BT and Barclays have teamed up to provide free wi-fi and hands-on digital support at libraries and community centres in deprived areas across England.

The innovative community programme will provide wi-fi to 57 libraries and 13 community centres across the country. A further 10 sites, including a care home, a charity home and a homeless centre, will also get free wi-fi. More sites will be announced at a later date.

Barclays Digital Eagles – specially trained Barclays staff who provide free technology advice both to customers and non-customers – will work at the new wi-fi sites to help local people build confidence and develop the skills they need to succeed in the digital world.

Libraries and community centres are the heartbeat of lots of communities. Free internet access combined with expert support will help the many people who are not yet online.

In the UK some 18 per cent of the adult population have never been online, and this increases to 60 per cent for people over 65 years old. With so many opportunities – from education, interacting with friends and job opportunities to government and health services – all available online, it has never been more vital for people to start their digital journey.

Anna Easton, head of BT’s connected society programme, said: “At BT we use the power of communications to make a better world. We want to ensure that everyone can not only access the digital world, but also have the skills and support they need to stay online in the long term.

“An evaluation of our existing digital inclusion programmes shows that for  the elderly and unemployed, both access and long term support in the community is essential. This new partnership with Barclays will ensure that support is available for those that need it the most”

Steven Roberts, Strategic Transformation Director at Barclays, commented:

“Across the country, people are experiencing the digital revolution, but like all revolutions, it’s not one that happens to all people at once. Some will adopt digital skills quickly, others will take more time.”

“At Barclays we firmly believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that no one is left behind on the digital journey and through this significant partnership with BT, we can ensure that even more people have access to the services and support they need to embrace the digital revolution.”

BT and Barclays have both committed to support the implementation of the government’s digital inclusion strategy, which aims to reduce the number of people offline in the UK by 25 per cent by 2016.

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