18 million people are willing to give an hour

You probably know by now that I’m a stats nerd, but did you know which set of statistics I use the most? An amazing 30 million people in the UK use the internet everyday [ONS, 2011] with learning and keeping in touch being the most regular online activities [Ofcom, 2011]. Many of us who make up this 30 million learned how to get the most out of using the web through our friends or family members, and have been inspired through this basic interaction.  There are still 8.7million people[ONS, 2011] who have never, ever, ever used the internet – and so it makes sense to use these interactions to inspire them as well.

Earlier this year Martha Lane Fox [@marthalanefox] made a rallying cry to recruit 100,000 local digital champions from communities and corporates alike, and this first milestone has already been achieved. We’re working with Martha and her Race Online team, and want to encourage all of you to Give An Hour as part of the huge national campaign that’s happening over the next fortnight.

We know lots of things about people who are online – and about people who are offline – but we didn’t know that much about the online people (we call them Digital Champions) who would like to help offline people until recently. Because of this, we commissioned some primary research with IFF who surveyed 2,056 representative adults, held four focus groups and found out some interesting things.

Out of the 40 million people who are regular internet users, 45% (18 million) are willing to spend an hour helping someone to get online for the first time. That’s a pretty big volunteer workforce.

Of this 18 million, most have already helped someone get started. Usually the offline person asked for help, and they started with something like email or Google. One person who had helped her Mum said: “It’s about finding that seed of interest, something they really like, and then showing them the link to what they really like.” Sometimes, they had tried to persuade a family member to get online but had met resistance or when they had helped someone to get online they had got frustrated at the experience – they had taken using things like a mouse for granted and hadn’t understood how slowly you need to go with a new internet user.  We’ll work closely with other interested parties on this research, including Race Online and the BBC, who have also commissioned research on Digital Champions.

Our new research shows that of the 18 million that are willing to help, 25% – or 4.5 million people – know someone who is offline. If just 10% of these people respond to the campaign call to action that’s almost 0.5m people who will get onto the internet for the first time in the next two weeks.

Out of the of the 18 million online people who are willing to Give An Hour, a staggering 11.5m (64%) are even willing to help someone they don’t know.  As these people might need a little bit of help to find someone who’s offline,  it makes sense to start thinking about them as volunteers who we can inspire to get in touch and get linked up to someone who is offline outside of their immediate circle.

As an immediate response, we’ve made it easier for Digital Champions who want to volunteer to help someone get online find somewhere they can do this.  You can take a look at this map, put in your postcode, and if you spot a gold star icon, that centre would love to hear from you.  We’ve also brought the map, and a Do-it search widget which allows you to find charity and community organisations who need your help, together on the Digital Champions website, which you can take a look at here.

We’re going further than this though, and our next step is to do some more research, and so that we can rigorously test some clever beta tools with new digital champions and the people they are going to help making it even easier for everyone to give the spare hours they have – during the campaign and beyond.

So, how will I Give an hour? Well, the campaign says that we will all get an extra hour when the clocks go back during Saturday night (29th October), so I’m going to use that hour in the streets of Sheffield on Sunday (30th) lunchtime handing out leaflets and talking to people. I want to see if I can persuade people to give up an hour of their own time to help someone to get online, I want to see if they know anyone who’s offline or not, and I’m always keen to talk to people not using the internet so I can try to encourage them to join our digital nation. I’ll be tweeting throughout, and keep an eye on this blog for an update on how I get on!

Visit www.go-on.co.uk or www.facebook.com/GoONSheffield for more information. 


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