News story

Civil service 'Digital Friends' to help get the UK online

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Digital Friends initiative will recruit civil servants to share skills with friends, family and neighbours and help them get online.

Launching the Cabinet Office and Government Digital Service ‘Digital Friends’ initiative, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude encouraged civil servants to teach their digital skills to friends, family, neighbours or colleagues who are offline.

By increasing awareness and encouraging people to teach digital skills, civil servants can help to reach the estimated 21% of the UK population who lack the basic digital skills required to benefit from the internet. Helping more people to get online will also help to address wider social issues and support economic growth.

Under the Digital Friends scheme, civil service staff are encouraged to find someone they know who needs help to go online, and give them basic advice and support on skills. This may include browsing the web, email and online safety. They can share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter using #DigitalFriends.

People from across the public sector are invited to become Digital Friends.

Find out how to become a Digital Friend:

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

As part of the government’s long term economic plan, we want to reduce the UK’s offline population by 25% every 2 years, so that by 2020, everyone who can be online, will be. We are working in partnership with the public, private and voluntary sectors to help people use and benefit from the internet.

I’m calling on civil servants, and the public at large, to do something great in your community by becoming a Digital friend.

Partner organisations including BBC, Three, Barclays, BT and The Society of Chief Librarians will encourage their employees to become Digital Friends. The scheme will also become part of existing work by partner organisations including Go On UK, Digital Unite, Age UK, EE, Lloyds and Tinder Foundation.

Kerensa Jennings, Head of Strategic Delivery at the BBC, said:

The flagship BBC Make it Digital initiative is designed to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology. Throughout 2015 and beyond, we are aiming to shine a light on the wonderful world of digital and do our bit to help people discover the range of digital skills learning opportunities across the UK. Digital Friends helps people get started through friends, family and colleagues they know and trust. BBC Make it Digital is delighted to be lending its support and getting involved.

Ciara Eastell, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, said:

Here at the Society of Chief Librarians, we want to give everyone the chance to see what technology and the internet can do for them. Digital Friends is such a brilliant, simple idea: helping everyone to benefit from the internet through friends, family and trusted intermediaries.

We’re delighted to support the Digital Friends initiative, and will certainly be encouraging all of our library staff and volunteers to pass on their skills and enthusiasm to others.

Government Digital Strategy and Digital Inclusion Strategy

The Government Digital Inclusion Strategy includes 10 actions which government and partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors will take to reduce digital exclusion, helping people become capable of using and benefiting from the internet.

The Government Digital Strategy committed each government department to carry out 16 actions, including collaborating with partners across public, private and voluntary sectors to help people go online.

Wi-fi in public libraries

The government announced £7.4 million in the 2015 Budget to fund wi-fi in libraries in England. BT and Barclays are working with the government to provide a wi-fi pilot project in support of this in a selection of libraries and community centres. They will also provide practical support at some libraries and community centres in deprived areas.