Wales

900,000 in Wales lack confidence to use web

Ethernet
Image caption Internet access can boost children's future earnings, the report found

About 900,000 adults in Wales do not have the skills or confidence to use the internet and could be missing out financially and socially as a result.

The Digital Inclusion Framework, a consultation by the assembly government, wants the public's views on improving access for those affected.

Research for the framework found older people, the unemployed and disabled people were most likely to be affected.

The consultation will run for three months from Thursday.

The document refers to a report produced for the UK's digital champion which found that households which were offline missed out on savings of £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online.

It also said people with good IT skills earned between three and 10% more than people without such skills, and children's educational performance could be improved by having access to a computer and the internet at home.

The framework says: "Only a concerted effort by the private, third and public sectors can achieve and sustain digital inclusion and participation of excluded citizens."

One case study showed how organisations from the three sectors could work together to improve online access for those likely to be excluded.

Caerphilly council is holding discussions with United Welsh Housing Association, BT and the Communities 2.0 (a Welsh Assembly Government initiative encouraging engagement with technology) about a pilot project to provide wireless access and mentoring to tenants in five housing estates across the county.

Research has shown that people in Wales who live in social housing are nearly twice as likely to be digitally excluded as owner-occupiers.

The report said it demonstrated how such an alliance of organisations can "deliver what each operating separately could not".

Social Justice Minister Carl Sargeant has called on public, private and third sector organisations to take part in the consultation process as well as individual members of the public.

"Many people avoid going online as they don't think they have the skills, know-how or money to use the internet properly," he said.

"The framework aims to recognise the difficulties people face in using the web and suggest ways of overcoming these.

"We need people from across Wales to tell us their thoughts on what we are proposing so that the framework gets it right."

He added: "People use the internet for all kinds of day to day things, like shopping, booking holidays and keeping in touch with family and friends.

"Many employers also require staff to be IT literate, so it's important that everyone can use the web."

Wales historically has had lower broadband access than other areas of the UK, and while it still lags behind, the most recent figures show it is catching up.

Figures from Ofcom published in August 2009 showed Wales had 58% take-up of broadband, a figure which had risen by 13 percentage points on the previous year and was the largest increase in the UK proportionally.

The UK average was 68%, with England at 70%, Scotland 60% and Northern Ireland 64%.

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