Be Online and swim the ocean

This week saw the start of our Be Online campaign. Taking place over the next two weeks it aims to help people get online and improve their digital skills by encouraging our network of community partners (and anyone else who wants to take part) to host events showing people the mass of benefits that being on the internet can bring.

Yesterday I went to Leeds to see firsthand what some of our partners are up to. My first visit was to a Remploy Centre in Leeds City Centre. They are great at providing disabled job seekers with a range of support, including embedding Learn My Way into the journeys for almost everyone they see. I was impressed by the range of partners they work with too.

Then I jumped on a train to Bramley, a suburb of Leeds, where I met Charlotte Self from Leeds Libraries to visit Molly, an older learner, at home who uses their Libraries@Home service. It was such a treat for me to meet someone for whom it was their first time on the internet. Leeds Libraries are part of our action research digital inclusion programme, and they are taking iPads out to people at home, most of whom are housebound or disabled. Charlotte showed Molly how to search on Google and on YouTube, as well as how to use the Leeds Libraries service to borrow an e-book. Molly was amazed that she could borrow an iPad with a sim card (so she didn’t need to worry about broadband) for no cost from the library. She was delighted about what she found on the internet. And, she was really delighted that she could download an e-book straight away that she will now be able to read.

It was interesting to see that Molly thought that she wasn’t going to be able to do it – using the internet sounded as if it would be hard – but an hour later said she’s keen to at least practice what she did today. Leeds Libraries provide a stylus (or a ‘dabber’ as Charlotte called it) as many new users find their fingers either too heavy or too light or too wobbly; Molly liked to use her ‘dabber’ and her finger.

Molly and Charlotte

Molly with Charlotte Self, exploring the wonders of the internet

Remploy and Leeds Library showed me two very different services that they are providing but their aims are exactly the same: to help people get online and keep getting back online once they’ve learned how, and subsequently use the internet to make their life easier. This is also the sole purpose of our campaign. It’s about helping people to use the internet for the first time and then to keep going and to become confident and independent internet users.

It’s time for the numbers

Last week I attended a meeting with some senior people. Some stats were mentioned about how many people are ‘digitally engaged’ which didn’t ring completely true and, of course, with me being a bit of a stats nerd I decided to do some digging with my research team. We found a lot of really interesting stuff that relates back to the Be Online campaign and why it’s so important.

Looking at these stats, there’s the headline stuff such as the amount of adults lacking basic digital skills in the UK (12.6 million), but if you continue down to the stats near the bottom of the list, there’s some real eye-openers. Personally I was pleased to see from Go ON UK’s Basic Digital Skills UK Report 2015 that 98% of under 45 year olds have at least one basic digital skill but it goes down to only 89% of people under 45 who have all five basic digital skills.

It’s encouraging to see that 77% of under 45-year-olds carry out more than 10 different activities online, but disappointing that the remaining 23% don’t. However, the low usage or shallow use of the web, is likely to be by people on low incomes, with 80% of people in social group DE (the semi-skilled or unskilled manual working class or the unemployed) doing 10 or less activities online. In case you’re wondering I do all 17 in Ofcom’s list and my colleagues either do 17 or 16 of the activities.

If you’d like to see them all for yourself, the stats are collated in a table at the bottom of this blog.

So it’s not about looking just at the headline stats, it’s not just about ‘being online’ or not, but it’s what you do with it that matters! And how much variety you do and how confident you are about the variety.

The internet’s an ocean

When we were coming up with names we decided to call it Be Online. It’s short and snappy and it sounds good – but it was also because ‘Be online and do something meaningful and develop your confidence so that you can do it on your own’ is just too long. If we tried to turn that into a hashtag that’d be your whole 140 characters gone in one go.

I thought of this lovely metaphor on my way back from the Be Online events that I think encapsulates the sole purpose of the campaign: we want to help people get into the shallow end of the pool but really our goal is to help people to swim in the ocean. Molly got her feet wet today, metaphorically speaking, and I hope over the weeks, when she’ll get free use of an iPad with sim as well as one-to-one personal support, that her confidence grows and she’s able to explore and develop what she wants and what she needs.

It was a real privilege to meet Molly and to watch the smiles on her face as she discovered a tiny bit of what the internet is about and she discovered that, yes, with a bit more help and support, she will be able to do it.

Check out all the Be Online activity so far on social media by searching for the hashtags #BeOnline16 and #lovelearnmyway, and don’t forget to post your own statuses and pics if you’re taking part in the campaign – I’d love to see them.

And here are the stats

12.6 million adults in GB lack basic digital skills (that’s 23% of all GB adults). The five basic digital skills are: managing information; communicating; transacting; creating; problem solving Go ON UK, Basic Digital Skills UK Report 2015
11.1 million people in the UK have low digital capability. This is an indicator of actual digital behaviours such as: very little evidence of online shopping; no managing money online; no streaming or content. Lloyds Banking Group, Consumer Digital Index, 2016
11% of adults (5.9 million) have never used the internet ONS, Statistical Bulletin: Internet Users, 2015
14% of adults are not recent internet users ONS, Statistical Bulletin: Internet Users2015
14% of adults in the UK are non-users of the internet Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
86% of households in Great Britain (22.5 million) have internet connected at home Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
51% of adults use a smartphone to go online outside of the home Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
67% of adults go online at home and elsewhere; and 17% of internet users (over 15 years) only go online at home Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
Smartphones and tablets supplement rather than substitute computer use, with just 6% only using smartphone and tablet devices to go online at home or elsewhere. This rises to 10% among DEs. Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
The busiest 7-day period saw 14.4m unique visitors to pages at Gov.UK – this represents approximately 22% of the UK population. Activity on GOV.UK: web traffic
51% individuals interacted online with public authorities within the last 12 months The European Broadband Scorecard Q1, 2015 via Ofcom
98% of under 45 year olds have at least one basic digital skill and 89% have all five basic digital skills Go ON UK, Basic Digital Skills UK Report 2015
98% of under 45 year olds go online anywhere Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
23% of under 45 year olds carry out 10 or less types of activities online Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015
80% of internet users in social group DE carry out 10 or less activities online Ofcom, Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes, 2015

One thought on “Be Online and swim the ocean

  1. Pingback: Be Online and swim the ocean – Helen Milner | Public Sector Blogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s