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Sutton bridges the digital divide 16.02.11

Sutton has joined a drive led by internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox to get everyone in Britain online.

The co-founder of lastminute.com, now the UK's Digital Champion, has announced plans to get every working-age person using the web by 2012.

Nationally, it is estimated that around 10 million people have never been online and 4 million of those are people among the most disadvantaged in our communities.

With an estimated 35,000 people in Sutton still not online, the council is committed to playing its part to reduce this digital divide. It is one of the first authorities in London to sign up to the campaign.

Cllr Ruth Dombey, Sutton's Executive Member for Community Engagement and Customer Services, said: "Maybe we take it for granted that everyone is on the internet but there are a considerable number who do not have access to the web – and they are missing out on big savings, vital information and the chance of a better education.

"There are three main barriers to getting on the web - a lack of access, not having the opportunity to get the skills and not yet knowing all the amazing benefits it can bring. We are determined to do all we can to change this."

Sutton Council is tackling the situation in a number of ways, including:

? Making computers available in the Civic Offices reception and in the borough's libraries

? Promoting training - encouraging young people to share skills through a new programme with schools

? And by making more of its own services available on line

According to figures from Ms Lane Fox's Race Online 2012 project, 39 per cent of those who have never used the internet are over 65, 38 per cent are unemployed and 19 per cent are families with children.

The dotcom entrepreneur also discovered that more than 90 per cent of all new jobs require basic internet skills, and seven million job adverts were posted online last year, although 900,000 people out of work do not currently use the internet.

Cllr Dombey added: "Getting people online also has benefits for taxpayers. If all the offline adults began using the internet and made just one online contact a month instead of face to face or telephone, it would save thousands of pounds a year which could be used to protect frontline services."

To find out more go to www.raceonline2012.org or ring Matt Archer at Sutton Council on 020 8770 5358.

Last updated: Tuesday, 08 March 2011

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