By Claire West
In a Google world of buzzing Blackberries, non-stop Tweeting and social networking sites, it is difficult to imagine life without the send button. But for 10 million people, cyber-space is still a distant galaxy.
According to UK online centres, 20 per cent of adults in the UK do not use the internet, 73 per cent of the non-user population are in socioeconomic groups C2DE and 86 per cent of those without access are over 45.
The government-funded UK online centres are a network of thousands of centres which help people get started with computers and the internet. Staff are on hand to offer help and support with more than 30 free, easy courses on www.myguide.gov.uk. The Online basics course package is designed for beginners. It shows them how to use a mouse and keyboard and send their first email. The Online jobs package can help learners search and apply for jobs online and prepare for interviews. Other packages can introduce learners to online shopping, banking and networking.
Unionlearn, the TUC's learning and skills arm, has now become a partner organisation with UK online centres and, with support from its network of 25,000 union learning reps, will be reaching out to people who need help with their IT skills. The IT programs will be introduced to the 400-plus trade union workplace and community learning centres. The centres can be found in factories, bus depots, offices, the Brighton Pavilion and even in a Sikh temple.
Unionlearn will also be taking part in next month's Get online week, (from Oct 18-24). The campaign aims to help 80,000 get online, making it the single biggest digital inclusion campaign in the UK to date.
Judith Swift, unionlearn's union development manager, said: 'Getting online is actually 'Getting a Lifeline' in today's society. Not being able to shop online, book holidays or train or theatre tickets is a costly pain. Even more than that it opens up a new world of understanding how much fun and enjoyment is to be had from browsing the net, sending emails and photos to distant relatives or tracing family history.'
Sarah Bridges, senior direct delivery manager at UK online centres, said: 'We are pleased to be supporting unionlearn centres and union learning reps to help people in the workplace gain new skills using Online basics. Basic computer skills are now more important than ever, boosting people's chances of gaining employment and increasing their ability to achieve a higher salary.'