Today was a day of good news and frustrating news!
Firstly, and flatteringly, Neelie Kroes the EU Commissioner with responsibility for the digital agenda wrote on her blog that she has asked EU Commission President Barroso to write to all member states suggesting that a digital champion role can be useful and help with a country’s skills and economic outlook. I have met Neelie on a number of occasions and have always been impressed with her energy and her understanding of the complex agenda that she oversees. It is a tribute to all the Race Online 2012 partners, and most especially the team, that Europe is looking at us and planning on copying the idea. Not many areas feel collaborative with Europe right now so I am happy to be one!
The frustrating news came this morning with the release of new ONS stats about the numbers of people who are offline. There are now about 8.2m people who answered no to the question ‘have you ever been online?’. This is a reduction of 224,000 within a quarter or 500,000 in a half year.
These numbers do not take into account the ‘Give an Hour Campaign’ that Race Online 2012 helped to coordinate in October nor do they include Christmas so I would hope for more of a jump next quarter.
There are some interesting data points within the overall trends but to my mind progress is still slow and the worst thing is that the numbers show that the most disadvantaged communities are still left behind. Race Online 2012 has over 1300 incredible partners, there are hundreds of amazing organisations working to help communities be more digital across the UK, and the government is embedding more of our ideas in its work but the pace of real change is still too slow.
I feel anxious that easier and cheaper technology alone will not help millions more online and want to continue to work hard to try and demonstrate to industry, the public sector and the wider community that without making sure the UK is digitally capable I really believe we will not be able to build our economy.