The government has given its backing to a drive to get the entire UK population online by 2015, as outlined by UK Digital Inclusion Champion Martha Lane Fox.
The Lastminute.com co-founder said at the launch of her Manifesto for a Networked Nation as part of RaceOnline2012 that she wants to help the 10 million people in the UK who have never used the internet to go online and benefit from the rapidly growing number of digital services.
"By getting more people online, everyone wins. Businesses are competing for more online customers. Government needs to deliver better for less. Charities want to support the people they serve better," she said.
"So we are calling on them to work together and tackle the unfairness and lost opportunities caused by digital exclusion, and deliver positive social change."
The manifesto outlines a number of aims, including encouraging the government to "think internet first" when designing services, and persuading industry to highlight the benefits of the web to those reluctant to get online.
Lane Fox also called for central and local government bodies to appoint " digital champions" in all local authorities, Jobcentre Plus offices and public libraries by the end of the year.
She also outlined an ambitious scheme for the technology industry to lead in the creation and delivery of a national equipment recycling programme to help ensure that devices in the UK are passed on to get the most from their use.
Prime minister David Cameron backed Lane Fox's manifesto, adding that it is important for the country as a whole to see this agenda through.
"In the internet age, we need to ensure that people aren't being left behind as more services and business move online. Promoting digital inclusion is essential for a dynamic modern economy, and can make government more efficient and effective," he said.
Businesses, charities and government departments wishing to register their support and interest in the manifesto and its aims are encouraged to sign up on the RaceOnline2012 site.
However, the UK's network infrastructure will have to be improved if the government is to realise these ambitions, particularly to help rural areas gain access to broadband, something the government has pledged to resolve.
Clive Longbottom, an analyst with Quocirca, said he thought the report contained some good ideas, including the push to provide internet access in community areas, but argued mobile devices should be given more consideration to meet these aims.
"This is a far more ubiquitous device than the PC, and the majority will now have some form of internet access. At an individual level, sending out alerts to people doesn't need a PC and internet access, just an SMS message," he said.
Longbottom also questioned the feasibility of any scheme that gave users free machines, or provided them to schools, citing concerns over security and cost.
"Giving a user access through to web and a device to do it with is fine, but should we then be looking at some value-added services, such as anti-virus, anti-spam? How does the government respond when 10,000 devices appear on eBay at special rates?," he said.
"I'd hate to see this just become yet another multi-million pound political gesture."
Clodagh Murphy, director of broadband provider Eclipse Internet, argued that the government could generate billions for the British economy if it succeeds in getting ten million citizens online.
“The most crucial part of this manifesto is understanding that achieving this target and boosting the economy will undoubtedly generate more revenue for Britain’s small businesses,” she explained.
“As a small business provider, this potential in the market is hugely exciting.”
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