08 Nov 2012, Rosalie Marshall , V3
UK Digital champion Martha Lane Fox is backing a new initiative that aims to get some 16 million people across the UK basic online skills so they can use the internet to its full potential.
The initiative is being led by Go On UK, a charity chaired by Fox and backed by the likes of Age UK, the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and TalkTalk. It was first founded in April this year.
Fox argued the UK is failing to harness many of the benefits the digital environment can bring to individuals and organisations.
"We read every day of the huge challenges that the UK faces both economically and socially," said Fox.
"We need to make the country fit for purpose through the next decade and ensure everyone and every organisation has basic digital literacy."
At the heart of this new drive is a report, titled This is for Everyone: The Case for Universal Digitisation, commissioned by Go On UK from consultancy Booz and Company
According to the report, the UK economy could be £63bn better off if the country achieves global digital leadership. The consultancy ranked the UK 12 out of 150 for its digital efforts last year.
Go On UK has proposed a three-strand strategy to improve the UK's digital skills; improve digital infrastructure, promote internet usage and digital technology to those individuals not online, and encourage innovation from the private and not-for-profit sector.
Prime minister David Cameron earlier said the initiative is vital to the UK's development.
"I salute all the hard work and creativity that has gone into making this project a reality," he said.
"It's so important that Britain takes full advantage of the economic and social potential of the digital age, and I am determined to make sure the Government plays its part in promoting digital literacy throughout the country."
Through improved digital literacy, Go On UK believes individuals will experience many benefits such as improved job prospects, improved health and well-being, and reduced isolation.
Young people are also likely to receive a better education, with web-based learning found to increase levels of engagement.
Additionally, strategy can help businesses channel scarce resources, improve customer satisfaction and retention, said the charity.
Meanwhile, the not-for-profit sector can enhance their fund-raising potential, while central and local governments can save £5.1bn annually with the moving online of every service, it claimed.