By Maximilian Clarke

Business and individuals are lending their support to a drive to get more people online, as new research suggests that as many as 1 in 5 UK adults have never sent an email.

Spearheaded by David Cameron’s ‘Digital Champion’, Martha Lane Fox, the Race Online 2012 is a campaign to encourage internet use amongst disadvantaged groups. Those who have never used the internet are typically from the most disadvantaged groups in society, and are further disadvantaged by ‘digital exclusion’ through not being able to take advantage of the benefits of the internet.

A lack of time and physical distance are often the cause of people losing touch. More than half of those surveyed in BT plc/ ICM’s latest telephone poll said they had lost contact with someone because they didn’t have time to keep in touch. Almost half reported losing touch because their friend or family member had moved to another part of the country and 42% of those who had lost touch said distance prevented them reconnecting.

Around 9 million people in the UK still haven’t used the internet. BT, through it’s Get IT Together campaign, is committed to helping to get another 100,000 people online for the first time by the end of the London Olympic year. As a leading partner of Race Online 2012, BT is supporting its ‘Give an Hour’ campaign, encouraging people to use the hour created by the clocks going back on 30th October to help someone get online.

Martha Lane Fox, commented: “There are still 8.7 million people in the UK who’ve never made a free Skype call, explored and expanded their interests or got a great deal online. Yet, it’s impossible to imagine life without the web for anyone who uses it regularly”.

“We live in an age when ‘digital’ is a vital life skill: as basic as knowing how to read and write. 90% of new jobs require it: you’re 25% more likely to get work when you have web skills and once in work you’ll earn up to 10% more. It’s simply unacceptable that so many people are still unable to benefit from what the web can offer. BT’s commitment to get an extra 100,000 people online by the end of next year is just the kind of dedication we need to make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web."

Gavin Patterson, BT’s CSR champion, said: “These days there are so many great ways to stay in touch. In the world we live in, the internet can really help people who are isolated or disadvantaged. Of those not online, four million are also the most socially and digitally excluded. We’ve been working since 2002 to tackle this digital divide and are committed to helping 100,000 more people get online by the end of next year.”

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