Celebrating the ‘one in a million’

Today we’re holding a fantastic celebration as we’re on the cusp of having supported one million people (which is a pretty big number) to gain basic internet skills since April 2010.

Helping this many people to learn basic internet skills in just three years was an ambitious target to set ourselves, and it meant scaling up delivering and engaging hundreds of thousands more people, which was a pretty big ask. I’m delighted that, nine months ahead of schedule, we are just about to hit this target.

Of course Online Centres Foundation and all of our partners played a big role in reaching these one million people, but I want to express my admiration and thanks for the thousands of local community organisations and public libraries that make up the UK online centre network, and the staff and volunteers who work in them, who one by one helped one million people to use the internet. Thank you.

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a stats nerd so I wanted to give you a bit more detail about the one million people that we’ve supported.

  • 99% of them rated the service they got both from us (online) and more importantly from their local centres as excellent or good
  • 88% of the learners feel more confident overall (not just in their internet use) and 79% think that they are now more independent since learning more about the internet
  • 38% of this 1 million people supported had no qualifications, and 79% of them are socially disadvantaged.

These stats go to show that we’ve supported many people who aren’t reached by other kinds of informal learning. And also that those we help really like both their experience and the world that has opened up to them since gaining new skills, which is pretty important.

However (and there is always a however!), in today’s world it’s not good enough just to make people’s lives better. We also need to think about the value for money that we provide – and how we can prove this to the people who fund us in government. And so we’ve been calculating the impact we, and our one million learners, have had on the economy. 8% of these one million people have gone on to get a job due to the help they got in a UK online centre. This might not sound like a huge number, but when you remember that it’s 8% of 1 million people, that’s 80,000 people now in work and using their digital skills.

On top of this, by helping so many people to gain the skills they need, we’ve also been able to help with the roll-out of digital Government services – and here we’ve got some very good news to report. For the three year investment of £30m the Government awarded us in 2010 to support these one million people, they’ve already reaped a saving of £185m due to these digital citizens choosing that instead of contacting government face-to-face or over the phone they’ll do it online instead. And now they’ve started, these on million people will keep providing the Government with a £157m saving every year, year on year, from now on.

There are three magic ingredients to how we made this happen: Firstly, our national organisation – Online Centres Foundation – has demonstrated that we can deliver a large scale ambition. We said we could scale up delivery, and we did. Secondly, we’ve achieved our ambition by using technology for everything we do, including to deliver consistent systems and excellent online learning And, thirdly, and most importantly, we do it with thousands of local, or even hyperlocal, partners working in the communities they know and love.

One million people is easy to say, and it’s easy to forget that this short phrase is made up of one million wonderful individuals who were willing to learn something new. To recognise their achievements, we’ve put together a short film to celebrate each and every one of them, who are all “one in a million”

So, thank you to all our national partners, to Martha Lane Fox for all her help, to all of the trusted and hard working staff and volunteers and the thousands of local partners, and to all of our learners for being on this journey with us.

There are still 20 million people in the UK who can’t use the internet to do simple tasks and so there is still a lot to do. We will continue to support all our centres throughout the country to continue what they’re doing, in helping people in their communities to gain basic internet skills. Here’s to the next million!

Financial inclusion and digital inclusion – they’re one and the same

What with all of the hustle and bustle of last week’s conference, and of course the long bank holiday weekend, you might have missed the fact that last week we launched a brand new online course – Make Money Work.

Launching it at the conference really did feel like perfect timing (I love it when a plan comes together!), with so much talk of the launch of Universal Credit. Lord Freud summed it up perfectly for me at the conference when he said that digital inclusion and financial inclusion go hand in hand. If you’re digitally excluded, you won’t bank online and so you can’t check your balance easily. If you’re digitally excluded, you can’t look around for discounts and the best savings accounts or credit card rates, and you’re unlikely to pay your bills by direct debit and to take advantage of the savings this can provide. Put simply, you’re excluded from getting the most out of your money.

Universal Credit will reflect the payment pattern of a salary, so it will be paid into a bank account as a monthly payment. If someone is getting housing benefit to pay their rent it will be paid to the person and not directly to the housing provider, so it’s very important that people recieving Universal Credit have a bank account and get the help they need to budget monthly.

Our new Making Money Work online course is pitched at a level that’s easy for everyone to follow, and introduces people to the basics of managing money, including things like budgets, saving, borrowing and planning for the future. It’s just a start – there’s another course in the pipeline. We know that digital inclusion and financial inclusion go hand in hand, and we want to do more. If you’ve got ideas for how we can help to link digitally excluded people up with the tools and skills they need to help manage their money, whilst we’re helping them to use the internet, please let me know.

In the meantime, do take a look at the Make Money Work course here.

My verdict on ND2012

I’ve had a great last few days a the National Digital Conference, ND2012, meeting some fantastic people, sharing ideas and learning lots. We’ve all done a lot of talking over the last few days and so I thought I could better sum up the conference with some photos! In my speech on day 2 (you can look at the slides here) I described what we do as being about local + technology + scale, and I think this works pretty well for the conference as a whole!



Above is a picture of one of our star centre managers, Paul Davies, from Destinations@Saltburn, who won an award at the Digital Leaders Dinner on Wednesday. I said in my speech that it’s all about people, and that’s definitely true! It was meeting people like Paul who made the conference so inspiring, so congratulations to him and all the other centres doing great work in their communities.



Not strictly from the conference, but this picture is of me holding a Raspberry Pi in our office last week! It was great to meet Robert Mullins, co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, at the conference. and it really got me thinking about the new things we can do with technology.



The conference was really all about scale – bringing lots of local organisations together to share ideas and knowledge. The above photo is a group of our centres squirrelled away in an upstairs room at Old Billingsgate, plotting for our next campaign – Get online week, which we’re hoping will be our largest campaign to date, getting  tens of thousands of people online.

Thanks to all who inspired me at this year’s conference, and I look forward to seeing you all again next year!