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Government Pledges To Close Over-65 Digital Divide

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Up to 20,000 residents of sheltered housing over the age of 65 could be provided with Internet access under the government’s Get Digital scheme

The government has announced a plan to make it easier for people over 65 who live in sheltered housing to get online.

The Get Digital scheme, announced this week, has received around £2.9m of funding to provide residents of sheltered housing schemes with Internet access. According to government figures, more than two thirds of those over the age of 65 in sheltered housing don’t have online access.

Coordinated by National Institute Of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and Digital Unite, the project aims to provide online access to around 7,800 residents of 195 sheltered housing schemes around the UK with plans to eventually extend the project to 300 schemes and up to 20,000 residents.

“For thousands of people this programme could be truly life changing. Older people who currently don’t have access to the Internet miss out on the benefits that millions of us enjoy everyday,” said Communities Minister Lord McKenzie. “Technology has changed so fast that it has left many over 50s feeling left behind. This programme is about bridging the digital divide. A little training will make going online a possibility for everyone. The Internet will make it easier for people to keep in touch with their families, shop online and access a wide range of services.”

Commenting on the announcement, Angela Eagle, Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society said the Get Digital project will help thousands of older people in sheltered accommodation and rural areas become part of the digital age.

“The project will work alongside the digital inclusion taskforce helping older people benefit from Internet access and a new national network of digital mentors to give them the skills and confidence to use the Internet safely and effectively,” she said.

Lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox, who was hired last year by the government as Champion for Digital Inclusion, said more than 10 million adults across the UK have never used the Internet, and 4 million of this group are also socially excluded. “The Get Digital project will give older people in sheltered housing the skills to fully participate in modern technology and it’s exactly the right approach to make sure one of the most digitally excluded groups are not left behind,” she said.

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Earlier this week, business secretary Lord Mandelson launched a scheme designed to encourage more adults to improve their knowledge of computing and the Internet and develop online skills. Developed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Online Basics is an online portal designed to help web-newbies get to grips with the online world.