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MAD 4 IT aims to bridge UK digital divide
by Richard Powell at 16:15 16/10/02 (IT)
A Government campaign this week hopes to broaden IT's appeal to small businesses, young people and ethnic minorities.
'MAD 4 IT week' is running from 14th-18th October when local businesses will offer IT resources to help disadvantaged groups in 30 UK locations.

Over 100 events offering free skills training will take place across the UK and businesses will offer work experience to disadvantaged members of society as well as donations of IT equipment.

Larger companies will also provide e-mentoring to smaller businesses.

Douglas Alexander MP, the Cabinet Office Minister of State and former e-Minister, attended the first UK MAD 4 IT event at a UK online centre in North London earlier in the week.

Mr Alexander said: "The Government is intent on encouraging the development of a flourishing IT nation.

"We now have 5,200 UK online centres like this one across the country offering local Internet access and training for people who are new to the Internet to those who want to learn new computer skills."

Mr Alexander said the UK digital divide could be narrowed if leading businesses continue to volunteer to share skills and IT with people who felt excluded from using computers and the Internet.

The people least likely to use IT, according to recent Government findings, are: women, ethnic minorities, the elderly, unskilled workers, those on low income and people with low literacy and numeracy skills.

The findings cited the three key barriers to closing the digital divide as: 'connections' - access and cost; 'capabilities' - lack of confidence and skills; and 'context' - people believing IT isn't relevant to them.

The MAD 4 IT campaign is part of the Government's pledge to make the UK the best environment in the world for e-commerce by the end of 2002 and to make the Internet available to all UK citizens by 2005.

Recent figures from the Government show only half of the UK's 58,789,194 citizens use the Internet.

The Office of the e-Envoy recently said the biggest challenge to attaining 100 per cent by 2005 would be to make the web appeal to citizens outside the 15-24 age bracket.

Richard Powell, Shout99.com 2002

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