My visit to Queensland: Sharing our digital inclusion story

#1 Leg of my tour: Hello Australia and fun in sunny Brisbane

I arrived in sunny Brisbane late on Sunday evening and bounced out of bed the next morning ready for the first official day of my Queensland visit as International Thought Leader for the National Year of Digital Inclusion, as a guest of the Queensland Government. Those who know me, know my passion for digital inclusion and how essential it is not just to support people to be part of the digital society, but also to tackle social challenges. During this first week I was delighted to be able to share that passion with others as well as hearing about their work.

On the Monday I was lucky to meet the Advance Queensland Community Digital Champions, and representatives from business, industry, community government, regional and libraries to chat to them all about building digital literacy and inclusion in Queensland. I’m so impressed with the Digital Minister here, Leeanne Enoch MP (Minister for Science and Innovation and Minister for Small Business) who gave a great speech and awarded each Champion with a special pin (badge). I met Leanne when I visited Australia late last year and it was great to see her again. Last time we met I was over the moon when she tweeted about me:

Tweet from Leanne Enoch (November 2015)

Leeanne Enoch’s tweet about my speech last year

In Queensland a Digital Champion is someone who shares their love of digital and their passion for change through digital – be it in industry, about coding, supporting a small business, photography, training, etc. In England “digital champion” means a digital mentor or volunteer – more specifically someone who helps others to learn about how to use the basics of the internet.

Digital Champions Roundtable

Presenting at the Community Digital Champions event

I gave a few speeches in my first week about the work of Tinder Foundation and the UK online centres network in the UK, and I was able to show our ‘Social Challenges, Digital Solutions’ video, which you can watch below. I think this video demonstrates so clearly those individual stories from people who have learned new skills and are now part of the digital world, but more importantly feel better about themselves as well as the society they live in. I love this film and I was so proud to be able to show it to the people here in Queensland:

I was able to attend most of the Broadband for the Bush Forum as well as the Indigenous Focus Day.

Broadband for the Bush2

Speaking at the Broadband for the Bush Forum

Indigineous Focus Day

At the Indigenous Focus Day


I learned that there are differences in Queensland about the challenges for a 100% digital empowered nation, mainly the vast geography and problems that presents for getting great broadband to people living in remote, rural, and regional areas.

I’ve also learned a tiny bit about the culture and context of indigenous people. But there are more similarities than differences in digital inclusion in our two countries:

  • We believe that no-one should be excluded from a society that is now digital in so many important ways.
  • The people who are excluded are either older or poorer. The demographics are the same.
  • We know that supporting people to gain basic digital skills brings so much more than just new skills, it builds resilience, confidence and self esteem as well. Digital inclusion leads to social inclusion.
  • There are many people doing many great things; there already is expertise to build on. I’ve been so impressed with the passion and commitment I’ve seen.

As an outsider it’s sometimes easier to give advice. So I shared my seven point plan for successful digital inclusion, and luckily it seemed as pertinent at the end of the week as at the start. Here’s a tweet of me and my seven point plan:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.16.17

Thank you for tweeting about me Cecily Michaels

#2 Leg of my tour: Emerald, Cairns, Longreach, and some reflections

In Queensland we talked a lot about the Tinder Foundation digital inclusion model and its relevance to work in Australia. In the UK our approach is LOCAL + DIGITAL …. providing places to go with committed, patient people who provide face-to-face support in the heart of communities where people live (= local), and using technology to do the heavy lifting, such as using Learn My Way (our online learning platform), to provide the consistent learning content and data collation (= digital). It works really well – so well that we’ve helped more than 1.8 million people with this model since 2010.

The second leg of my Digital Inclusion trip around Queensland took me to Emerald, Cairns and Longreach. It was great to get out of Brisbane and to meet people in other places who were all committed to closing the digital divide.

In Emerald, I met with a very interested group of people coming from schools, special education, a kindergarten, an alternative learning centre, the council and the science centre. They all had first hand experience of knowing people who struggled with using the internet. A woman from a local kindergarten was helping one of the mums with using Skype for her telehealth appointments with a consultant in Brisbane. This is exactly the kind of thing I hear in the UK, where a local partner steps in to provide essential digital support for people who don’t have the access nor the skills they need to carry out something they need to live a better life.

After I left the session, the Emerald group stayed on to discuss how they could use some of the approaches and materials I presented in their own town and in their own situations – an extremely positive outcome!

Helen in Emerald

Presenting in Emerald

Cairns really is like paradise; I took the photo below from the venue we met in. I did two sessions in Cairns, again a great mix of people attending including from a local health trust specialising in mental health, a charity supporting victims of domestic violence, someone working with indigenous people and the wetlands, and people from the libraries in the region. And again, similar themes came up.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 09.40.06

The view from the venue in Cairns

I also got to visit EnVizion in Cairns and see their training centre and their virtual reality bus. The bus has been specially built to go anywhere, and to provide inspiring and aspirational experiences through real stories of people working in different industries. The bus has visited a number of communities in Cape York and had great results helping children to see that they have a number of choices for careers and that other people who have come from similar childhoods are now working in jobs, for example in mining or agriculture.

In Cairns, as at the Broadband for the Bush Forum, I got to hear about experiences and initiatives working on growing digital literacy with indigenous people living in remote communities. There are clearly barriers, including distance, lack of broadband infrastructure, and understanding the context, however the EnVizion virtual reality bus is showing that digital can be part of the solution in overcoming some of these barriers for some people some of the time.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 09.41.53

The EnVizion virtual reality bus in action. Image courtesy of

When I went to Longreach it was my first chance to see the outback in Australia. Brisbane to Longreach is about the same distance as London to Milan (through France and Switzerland), and I spent some time glued to the window to try to understand the landscape.


View from the plane to Longreach

The tyranny of distance is very real and it’s easier to understand being above it like this. In Longreach we were hosted by RAPAD, whose training arm have the great saying “trained in the outback, ready for the world”. At RAPAD’s office I met a number of interesting people, all supporting digitally excluded people. We talked about how essential digital literacy is for people who are in frequent contact with public services, and in particular the need for work to improve people’s skills and access to myGov and CentreLink. The idea of Learn My Way courses for people to learn how to use these critical online services was discussed, much like the work we do in the UK for people looking for work and on benefits and using UK online tools such as Universal Job Match.


Outside the RAPAD offices in Longreach

7.00am is probably the earliest talk I’ve ever given – although it’s probably quite common in Longreach, more so in the summer when the temperatures really soar. My talk at the Business Breakfast went well, and I included a short element about our work in the UK with rural small businesses, as well as with Google and their tools for small business. One quote we have from a small business helped from one of our programmes is: “I’ve not just gained digital skills, I’ve gained control of my life back”.


The Business Breakfast

And finally I gave an interview for ABC in Longreach, talking about the need for digital literacy as well as great broadband infrastructure.

ABC Longreach

With Ash Moore, presenter for ABC Western Queensland in Longreach

Some summary thoughts

Don’t wait until you’ve got great broadband infrastructure to worry about the 1 in 5 Australians who are not functionally digitally literate. Too often I heard people saying that the digital divide in Australia is only about no or poor broadband. It’s not. Good broadband is essential to have, however it’s not ‘build it and they will come’. By volume there are already millions of people in areas in Australia with good broadband who don’t use or can’t use the internet. Don’t wait.

Local + Digital is our model at Tinder Foundation and it’s a model that will work for you too. I met many organisations around Queensland that in vision, approach and the demographics of the people they help, are identical to some of our hyperlocal partners in the UK. Building on the great organisations that are already helping people in their local areas will be a great step forward. Digital could be Learn My Way, as some people asked, or something else. But do let the technology do the scaling, data collection and consistency that it’s good at.

Leadership is key. You can have a thousand flowers blooming, but it’s better if they’re all in the same meadow and all facing in the same direction. By this I mean, let the beauty of the locally determined initiative flourish, but it will be stronger in a network with others and it will achieve more with leadership and advocacy to make sure we’re all working to the same goal: a 100% digitally included Queensland.

Thank you to the Queensland Government for inviting me over to do this tour.

I loved meeting the people of Queensland. I learned a lot.

Good luck with your next steps on your digital inclusion journey, I wish you well.

And I hope to be back someday.

We’re looking for a new Chair

There will be another time, much closer to Christmas, when I will again have the opportunity to publicly appreciate Jim Knight. If you see me in person around that time, there will probably be laughter, and smiles, and possibly tears. Jim is stepping down as our Chair at the Tinder Foundation AGM in early December after what will be five years in the role, and, when he does, I will miss his support, his challenge, his intellect, and his ‘just being there’. Jim is a really exceptional Chair and he always gets the balance right: of support and challenge, ideas and influencing. I will miss him enormously, as will the staff and the rest of the Board, and I’m delighted that he has agreed to stay on as one of our Patrons and to stay part of the Tinder Foundation family.

Helen and Jim

Me and Jim cutting Tinder Foundation’s third birthday cake back in 2014

Jim is the inaugural Chair of Tinder Foundation. I knew him as Schools Minister and then as Employment Minister when we dreamed up the idea of having a digital champion in every job centre (as there still are). Jim shares our commitment to making a difference for everyone through technology and helping people realise greater opportunities by being part of a digital world. Jim is a big fan of consensus, he is very strict about meetings finishing on time, he’s a great person, and he has been a terrific Chair. Thank you Jim, we will all miss you.

We’re now looking to replace Jim and to find a new Chair.

We’re not looking for a clone, rather someone best placed to guide us on the next stage of our development. Over the next few years we will continue to diversify: working with partners across Government, Corporates, local authorities, trusts and foundations, both within and beyond the UK. As ever at Tinder Foundation we’re ambitious about the impact we can have and our goal is to help another 2 million people to benefit through digital by 2020.

We’re looking for someone who is passionate about a world where everyone can benefit from digital, and who has relevant experience. We need someone who is good at chairing meetings, involving board members and SMT; we’re a mutual so we have staff on our board as well as some excellent and supportive people from a range of backgrounds and organisations.

If you’d like to know more, here’s the official ad. Closing date 19th May. If you’d like to talk to me about the role then I’d be more than happy to have a chat, or you can contact Tasneem Aboobaker, Recruitment Manager at WIG on 020 7222 1166.

The will to win

I really was delighted last month when we received three nominations in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards 2016. This annual ceremony has taken place every year since 2013 and celebrates innovative people, organisations and tech which contribute towards the digital transformation of the UK.

Helen at the awards

Me at the Digital Leaders Awards last year when we were lucky enough to win for our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England.


These are our nominations:

English My Way

English My Way is a project we’ve run in partnership with The British Council and BBC Learning English for the past three years, supporting English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) from inside and outside of the UK online centres network to develop their English language skills, their confidence and to better integrate with their local communities.

From what I’ve seen throughout the project it has been a success and so beneficial to the project participants. Now as the project draws to a close it has been rewarded with a place on the Digital Leaders 2016 list, the ideal way to celebrate and reflect on its success.

Future Digital Inclusion

Future Digital Inclusion is our flagship digital inclusion project, funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We know that people without digital skills are at a significant disadvantage in today’s society. They are less able to access information, learning opportunities and all the other significant advantages the online world has to offer.

Future Digital Inclusion aims to close the digital skills gap by reaching out to the 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills. To-date through the UK online centres network we have supported over 445,000 people to improve their basic digital skills through the programme.

Tinder Foundation

Lastly Tinder Foundation has been nominated for Charity Digital Leader of the Year. The whole organisation was delighted by the news, and it is such a nice surprise. This award isn’t just for the Tinder Foundation team though, it’s for everyone who lives under the Tinder Foundation umbrella – the UK online centres network, the learners and our Board. Congratulations to everyone – you thoroughly deserve this.

Now that we’ve made the shortlist and I’ve told you a bit about our nominations, it’s time for me to add in my plug. We’ve made the 2016 Digital Leaders 100 list, now it has to be put into a final order through the judges and public vote, and I’d love for you to give us your support.

Simply visit the Digital Leaders website and find us in the ‘Charity Digital Leader of the Year’, ‘Cross-sector Digital Collaboration of the Year’ and ‘Digital Inclusion and Skills Initiative of the Year’ categories.

Thank you.

How digital can help lonely youths

I’m always talking about digital skills and how important it is for people to have them, but at Tinder Foundation our focus is not always on digital skills alone. Our goal is to have a world where everyone benefits from digital, especially those who are socially excluded, and recently we sat on the steering group of a loneliness project being run by ACEVO (the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) to see how we could help tackle loneliness amongst young people and contribute to their report, ‘Coming in from the Cold’, which was recently launched.

The numbers

The report contains some interesting findings. Until now there has been little in-depth research into youth loneliness, but this report is attempting to kick-start that research by using London as a test case to examine the causes and propose solutions. Focussing on people aged 16-32 the report estimates that the health, crime and unemployment costs – in part associated with loneliness – in London adds up to £34.5 billion. Young people who suffer from loneliness can often also have poor physical and mental health, a suppression of future job/earning opportunities or a drift into gangland culture.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 12.01.37

Image courtesy of ACEVO ‘Coming in from the Cold’

In a 2014 national survey by GetConnected, 34% of all people say that they often feel lonely but in 18-24-year-olds this number increases to 48%.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 12.04.04

The survey showed that 64% of 18-24-year-olds in London contacted GetConnected about loneliness. Image courtesy of ACEVO ‘Coming in from the Cold’

Although not specifically recommended in the report, digital can play a part in tackling youth loneliness and in turn, tackling the associated problems. Through technology young people have access to a world of possibilities: they can connect with other people through email or on social networks like Facebook and Instagram to combat loneliness – online dating could be useful here too; they can use the internet to explore any health issues they may have; or they can surf the web for job adverts and apply online. I really do believe that digital technology can be a powerful tool here in reaching that 48%, we just need to make young people aware of how they can utilise it.

A great example

We put together a case study for the report (you can find this on page 50) about the great work being done by our local partner and UK online centre, HEBA Women’s Project. Located on Brick Lane in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the project was originally set up to help BAME women in the area to learn English and develop their sewing skills. But through this approach HEBA then take the opportunity to introduce technology to their learners as soon as possible, helping them to gain confidence in using computers and the internet. Many of them quickly learn that the internet can extend their horizons and begin to go online to look for jobs and explore their interests – as well as making friends at the centre.

Last year they supported over 100 young women who were able to use their newfound skills to form connections with their local communities and beyond, in turn reducing their feelings of loneliness.

Read the report

There are so many social issues out there that a lot of people aren’t aware of, that technology could pose a solution for. It’s sad to read that 83% of 18-34-year-olds are ‘often, always or sometimes’ lonely and I feel like we can do a lot more to help. Thank you to ACEVO for allowing us to participate in this research, which has given us valuable insight into how we can help with this often overlooked social issue. Hopefully this London test case will be the start of something big. You can read the report here.

Dear Mr Vaizey …

Dear Mr Vaizey

I was watching you give evidence to the BIS Select Committee yesterday on the digital economy and I heard you say: “When people say that 20% of people are digitally excluded it doesn’t ring true, it doesn’t capture the nuances and frankly some people just don’t want to be online”.

I thought you might like to have a neat summary of what the numbers say. You’re right to say the picture is nuanced – and it really depends if someone is looking at whether someone has ‘ever’ used the internet or alternatively if they actually have the basic digital skills to use the web to help them with their work, life, and play.

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/Ipsos MORI, 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

You also said that there are people who just don’t want to use the internet and don’t have a compelling reason to use it. According to ONS (2015) 53% of people who don’t have the internet at home (or via mobile) say they don’t have a connection because they ‘did not need it’. In comparison, other barriers are less with 32% indicating that no connection was due to a lack of skills; and high equipment costs and access costs are also a barrier to 12% and 11% of households respectively.

Working to communicate the benefits of the internet to those who don’t see them currently, will continue to be really important.

Hope you find these numbers useful in further understanding the broad digital engagement landscape.

Best wishes,


New status, same mission

I am very pleased to say that we’ve received the significant notification that we’ve been granted registered charity status by The Charity Commission. Becoming a charity is something we’ve long talked about at Tinder Foundation as it fits with our ethos of supporting people to improve their lives for the better, something we do on a daily basis together with our hard working network of community partners. While our ethos has always been charitable, it has had one distinct twist – with staff playing a key role in the organisation’s decision making through sitting on the board, and being Members of the organisation voting on all key decisions. For us, if we were to become a charity it was vital that we were able to retain our mutual status, as this really sums up what we stand for – that everyone’s opinion matters. And as Members (that’s all the staff and the rest of our Board), we’ve all voted to become a charity.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 09.49.19

The team and the Board celebrating our fourth birthday at our AGM in December 2015


This is a really big deal, and I want to shout about it. Persuading the charity commission that we’re able to have paid employees on our Board, and persuading them that’s a good thing and will make for better decision making and better outcomes, was hard. But we’re always proud to be pushing the boundaries if that impacts in something that’s better.

We even got a quote from the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, for our press release: “It is inspiring to see the Tinder Foundation breaking new ground and embracing its new charity status. By becoming a charity as well as retaining its mutual status, Tinder Foundation is helping hundreds of people to become more involved in their communities while also helping to build a more compassionate society.”

The journey has been a long and challenging one, and I’d really like to thank the Members of Tinder Foundation who have led on this endeavour. There’s always more work to be done and becoming a charity was just another step in our mission to reach the 12.6 million socially excluded people without digital skills across the UK.

Security and fear – it’s time to educate

This morning I was invited to a very insightful panel discussion run by TalkTalk in partnership with Freud Communications about cybercrime. Cybercrime and issues around internet security have been on the rise recently; from Sony to TalkTalk themselves. Google and McAfee estimate there are 2000 cyberattacks every day around the world, costing the global economy about £300bn a year. A journal which I picked up today at the event (The Brewery Journal – well worth a read) reflects these figures: according to the 2015 UK Crime Survey there were an estimated 5.1 million cybercrimes and frauds last year in the UK alone, costing the UK economy £27 billion a year. It all seems very scary, but significantly lowering these figures is not impossible; we just need to educate.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 15.55.13

Image courtesy of The Brewery Journal


“97% of cybercrimes happen due to human frailty”

This is what Matt Hancock MP, the government minister who is responsible for cybersecurity, said this morning and he’s not wrong. Digital is something that isn’t going away and it’s really important for people to be smart and informed on the approaches they need to take when using the internet.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 15.55.27

Image courtesy of The Brewery Journal


I regularly meet vulnerable and socially excluded people when I visit our community partners, and they have concerns about internet security.

Our very popular resources on Learn My Way are great for educating learners about cybersecurity. In our beginners section we have Using the Internet Safely to introduce newbies to the dangers surrounding the internet and tell them the right steps to take to avoid these dangers. For those who are ready to move on to the more advanced stuff we’ve got Staying Safe Online and Keeping Your Information Safe, which show learners how to keep their tech safe from viruses. It’s also really important that we’ve backed hints and tips on keeping safe inside our other relevant online courses – we don’t expect people to know they need to do the explicit safety courses – we support them to keep their data safe on Facebook (in the Facebook course), to be clever when online shopping (in the online shopping course), and to set up good passwords and avoid phishing in the email course. If you’re internet safety savvy it’s easy to surf the web every day with no problems.

Raising Awareness

Today Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk, said that it’s important not to hide away and that we should be talking openly about this important issue. I firmly agree and I was thrilled to hear that the government is building a new cybersecurity centre and that the Cyber First scheme will be recruiting 1000 graduates – a good move in the fight against cybercrime.

Raising awareness is also at the forefront of the fight. Campaigns like Safer Internet Day and European Get Online Week are two causes which we support and promote here at Tinder Foundation, the latter of which is taking place next week. ‘Trust and confidence’ is one of the key themes surrounding this year’s campaign, aiming to raise awareness around online identities and cybersecurity to help people become more confident internet users.

Of course, we can’t wipe out cybercrime and hackers completely. As much as we’d like to, that’s just impossible. But what we can do is raise awareness and educate people. I felt inspired by something that Dido said today and thought I’d use it to finish this blog (apologies to Dido if I haven’t remembered this exactly): “I’m hopeful that the virtual world can be every bit as safe as the physical world (which isn’t completely safe, as it never can be).”

We’ve helped 1.8 million vulnerable and socially excluded people make positive changes to their lives through learning how to use the internet. We help them to keep safe, but I think we can do more. So, what’s next? We’ll get out to our community partners and talk to some of our users and work out what ‘more’ might be.

Democracy is dead; Long live democracy! and TICTec

I’ve been getting a lot of love on social media recently. As lovely as it has been, it hasn’t just been a random influx. At the beginning of this month my keynote speaker profile went live on My Society’s website for their 2016 conference in Barcelona at the end of April. I’ve been hearing from a lot of people through Twitter who are attending the conference and are really looking forward to it – and I’m certainly one of them!

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 15.48.26

What is TICTec?

TICTec is The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference 2016, and it’s essentially about what it says on the tin – the impacts of civic technologies, and so I was delighted when they asked me to be a keynote speaker. Not only because Barcelona is a truly lovely city, but because it’s giving me another opportunity to talk on an international stage about the huge impacts digital technology can have on people’s lives, and how Tinder Foundation and the UK online centres network are supporting people to realise the huge benefits of digital technology.

I’ll be using my speech at the conference to ask some key questions:

  • Is digital trying to fix outdated modes of democracy?
  • Are people getting increasingly detached from politics and do they feel that democratic structures are impenetrable no matter how much politicians tweet?
  • Is civic tech an amusing pastime of the middle-classes, or can communities co-design a better future for everyone using tech?

Hopefully we’ll be able to figure out some answers as well!

Why TICTec?

For me, attending an event like TICTec is really beneficial. It’s not just the UK that’s becoming increasingly digitised – it’s the whole world. At Tinder Foundation, we’re committed to helping the 12.6 million people in the UK – and the next 3 billion around the world – who don’t have basic digital skills, and our ethos is very much about taking a collaborative approach. I want to spread the digital inclusion message and extend our reach, while ensuring that our models of delivery are co-designed for social challenges, rather than assuming a one-size fits all approach. I’m interested to hear other people’s ideas and learn more about what other people across the globe are up to.

I’m excited to attend TICTec and meet the people there – from My Society and organisations all over the world – so I can be part of the conversation. Together, we can ensure that democratic and civic technology is accessible to everybody in society.

Join me

There will be a huge variety of people attending TICTec, from academic and applied backgrounds, businesses, public authorities, NGOs and educational institutions. There will be presentations, workshops and plenty of networking opportunities. I’d love for you to join me there – all the information about the day and the opportunity to register to attend is available here.

I’m really looking forward to TICTec and can’t wait to meet everyone. See you in Barcelona.

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

I made Prince Charles laugh yesterday

Yesterday, Prince Charles asked me if older people needed help to use the internet and I asked him if he was angling for a course. He laughed and said something amusing about hacking.

I was at Buckingham Palace to receive my OBE medal. Last June I was thrilled to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to digital inclusion, and yesterday I attended my investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace to receive the award from Prince Charles.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 10.38.51

Me and my OBE!

It’s no secret that I feel very strongly about digital inclusion and about ensuring that in this 21st century world – where digital underpins everything – no one is left behind. That’s what I said to Charles too by the way. It feels great to receive such a high-profile award for something that I feel so passionately about and that I just ‘do’ as part of my day-to-day working life. They announced it out loud: “Services to digital inclusion.” I really can’t believe it.


Me and my mum outside Buckingham Palace

Getting to this stage has been a long and fulfilling journey. I’ve dedicated my life to tackling digital exclusion for over thirty years. From providing online resources for children and schools in the 80s, working in online education in Australia and Japan, to helping to set up learndirect in 1999. Setting up Tinder Foundation and the continued development of the UK online centres network have certainly been career highlights for me. Since 2011 Tinder Foundation has grown from a small staff-owned social enterprise to a staff-led charity with a team of almost 50 – and we’re still growing.

I know it sounds cliched to say I couldn’t have done it without the many great people who have been on this journey with me, but it’s true. The whole team at Tinder Foundation is so passionate about digital, they are great people to work with and it is our team effort that deliver the Tinder Foundation successes. And, of course, the UK online centres network who help people every day to make their lives better with digital.

I was at a centre in Dalston just this week, on Tuesday – a million miles in life experiences from Buckingham Palace, but only 5 miles geographically. In Dalston, I was introducing partners from HMRC to local people who are struggling with digital and who are struggling with life, including Keith – 64 and still hoping to find a job. I was as happy to meet Keith on Tuesday as I was to meet Prince Charles yesterday. All part of life’s rich tapestry and I’m so lucky to see it all.

I’ve always believed that everyone is equal. Whether it’s me, my team, the learners in our network, or ministers in government. My work to-date – growing organisations and helping others – embodies this belief. Me and the Tinder Foundation team are absolutely committed to having a better world where everyone benefits through digital. If we can help people have more aspirations and understand their worth, then we’ve done our job well.


The team and the board celebrating our fourth birthday at the AGM, December 2015

I couldn’t have achieved this honour without the Tinder Foundation team, our board, our massive network of community partners across the UK, and every single person who has got online and gained digital skills since we started.


My husband made me a delicious OBE Cake. It was lovely!

I wish I had a slice of cake for all of you. Thank you to everyone sending me congratulations on Twitter – I really appreciate your support. And a big thank you to everyone who has helped me over the years. This award isn’t just for me; it’s for all of you. 

Thank you.