Mayor calls for volunteer force to help Londoners go online

17 February 2015

The Mayor of London is calling for an increase in efforts to ensure every Londoner has access to the internet and digital services. He has published a Digital Inclusion Strategy for London that includes a call for an army of volunteers to become digital champions and help train people in use of the internet.

In the Mayor's strategy it is revealed that around one in ten people in the capital have never used the Internet and almost two million Londoners do not have basic online skills. With the creation and use of digital services rocketing it is much harder for those people to access Government services, shopping deals, social media, training, employment and other opportunities.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "This is a digital age and every Londoner should be able to take advantage of the myriad of services available online. I want this strategy to act as a rallying call to the people who can help unlock the tools that Londoners without tech skills need to be able to access a digital world that could make a huge difference to their lives."

There is no single reason for people being digitally excluded and often it can be a combination of reasons such as not being able to afford the connections or being able to access training. While surfing the net comes naturally to some - 99 per cent of 16 to 19 year olds have used the Internet - the strategy highlights the groups who are less likely to log on. Only 39 per cent of people over the age of 75 have been online. Disability has also been identified as a barrier to Internet connectivity, with almost 30 per cent of disabled adults having never used the Internet, compared to just six percent of nondisabled adults.

A lack of digital skills also has a big impact on Londoners chances of employment. Around 72 per cent of employers say they would not interview an entry level candidate without basic tech skills; and people with those skills typically earn between three and 10 per cent more than those without them.

As part of his Digital Inclusion Strategy the Mayor has outlined a series of measures to tackle digital exclusion in a bid to put every Londoner on the path to tech expertise. He wants to see the Government, the voluntary sector, housing associations and corporate partners work together to help more people get online. Team London, the Mayor's volunteering programme is looking to mobilise Londoners to become Digital Champions who will train people in becoming digitally literate. Londoners interested in becoming a Digital Champion should log on at the following address for further information: http://volunteerteam.london.gov.uk/opportunities/3552

Kathy Valdes, Managing Director for Digital Unite said: "In our long-held experience of providing digital skills learning we have seen that those who are not online or who have poor digital skills need help to develop their confidence, their knowledge, their dexterity and their motivation. For that they need regular and accessible one-to-one support over a long period of time. That's where the role of a Digital Champion, Buddy or Friend can be hugely effective. And if these Digital Champion volunteers can be empowered and supported to help the digitally excluded, then many more people can begin to make the internet part of their daily lives, whoever and wherever they are."

Other measures included in the Mayor's strategy include supporting national activities to increase the supply of free internet services in public libraries; and working to try to improve the links between housing associations and internet providers. With 20 per cent of London's non-Internet users living in social housing, it is vital that providers can develop affordable connections for social housing residents.