100,000 net champions recruited
- 11 May 2011
- From the section Technology
More than 100,000 volunteers have promised to help a campaign to get more people on the internet.
Government digital champion Martha Lane Fox hopes they will "engage people with the joys of being on the internet".
It is part of the Race Online 2012 campaign which is trying to get millions more people using computers by the end of next year.
Nine million people in the UK have never used the internet.
A range of cheap computers is being made available to further entice them.
The low-price recycled PCs will be available from Microsoft, among others, for about £95.
Ms Lane Fox was appointed as the UK's digital champion in 2009, at which time she was tasked with getting the poorest four million Britons online by the time of the London Olympics in 2012.
Race Online 2012, as the campaign is known, has changed its focus and now aims is to make the UK "the world's first networked nation".
The 100,000 volunteers are made up from workers at Mecca Bingo, Post Offices, libraries, and 40,000 scouts.
Ms Lane Fox explained what she wanted the volunteer army to do.
"I'm not asking people to sit down and go through the complications of a presentation or train somebody in complex coding - I just want to enthuse people and inspire them and I think the rest will take care of itself," she told the BBC.
"For those people, it's a very simple task - they need to engage people with the joys of being on the internet," she said.
"It might be a parent on the school gates, it might be somebody in your GP surgery, it might be someone in your local pub or another network that you're in," she said.
The 100,000 formal volunteers are just the start.
"It will lead a ripple effect of informally people thinking 'oh yes, I know somebody I work with who can't use the internet,' so hopefully the 100,000 will become many, many more than that," she said.
Prime Minister David Cameron has backed the campaign.
"Today there are nine million adults in the UK who have never used the internet - and nearly half of them are among our most disadvantaged people. That's why the work Martha Lane Fox is doing as the UK's digital champion is so important," he said.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the majority - 7.3 million - of those are aged over 55.
Part of Ms Lane Fox's remit is to look at ways of making savings by putting more government services online.
Last year she conducted a review of current government online services and concluded that they needed to be revolutionised.
A new site has now gone live and will be tested for a couple of months to gauge public reaction.
"It is off the back of the report done by Martha Lane Fox. We accept that we need to make massive improvements and this is the result of three months work with a small team," said project director Tom Loosemore.
The site will be much simpler, more searchable and be based on the user's location within the UK.
Dozens of government services are now available online. Some 70% of tax returns are now done via the web and other services, such as renewing car tax, have proved popular.
The BBC is launching its own media literacy campaign, which like Race Online, aims to mobilise people to help a relative, friend or neighbour take the first steps online.
At the heart of the campaign is its First Click website which offers advice and tips on how best to support others.
The BBC's director general Mark Thompson is among a host of people lined up to speak at a conference in London on Wednesday aimed at discussing the best way to get more people online.