Government launches IT for All

by David Wilcox

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Launch news

The UK Government launched the IT for All campaign in London on December 3 1996. It aims to extend the Information Society Initiative - currently focused on small businesses - to citizens.

The strong message at the launch event was that Government and industry should work with public and voluntary sectors to raise public awareness of the potential benefits of IT.

"The overall 'IT for All' goal is to increase the number of the UK adult population who are confident in their use of a broad range of ICTs from the current estimate of 46% to 60% by August 2000," says the launch material.

Department of Trade and Industry research behind the campaign showed five group of users/non-users:

"IT for All seeks to move Concerned and Unconvinced individuals (38% of the UK population) upwards on this confidence ladder to the point where they are ready to use and embrace these new technologies, or, in other words, to join the growing Information Society."

IT for All is planned as a four-year 5million pound promotional campaign including: In addition DTI and BT Labs are funding a further free guide on 'How you can use IT in the Community' being developed by Community Online. Content is available on this site.

An IT for All project office will aim to broker initiatives with partners.

The Ministerial presentations (available at http://www.dti.gov.uk/build_is/index.htm ) showed three main motives behind the campaign


Invitation to Communities Online

The initial letter of invitation to Communities Online, from Neil Worman, Director, Content and Applications, Communications and Information Industries, says:

'This wide-ranging programme is intended to bring together government, the private sector and voluntary organisations, in a bid to offer the public the opportunity to experience new technologies in a way that will cater to each individual's needs and current knowledge.

'We are at present looking for partners in the public and private sectors who are involved in, or who have been considering, projects which share similar objectives to our own and as such could benefit from being promoted under the same banner.

'We believe that the programme we are suggesting would benefit all its participants, providing the confidence to embrace the Information Age and facilitate the adoption of the new technologies that will enable Britain to maintain its position at the leading edge of world industry and invention.

'We also believe that your organisation might be able to contribute to this initiative, by playing an active role in helping us to change the public's perceptions and misconceptions about the value and benefits of the new technologies available to them.

'As a potential partner in this exciting initiative, we would like you to put forward your ideas, comment and proposals for our consideration.'


The accompanying leaflet from the DTI emphasises a public awareness campaign and joint promotion of projects. It does not offer funding to projects, but a project office, staffed by Civil Servants and secondees, will aim to broker new partnerships ­p; including sponsorship. The leaflet text is:


LET'S DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

The IT Partnership Initiative

A PARTNERSHIP INIVITATION

CHANGING ATTITUDES TOWARDS IT

The rapid development of Information Technology (IT) offers exciting opportunities to enrich the lives of everyone in Britain.

Recent research indicates that the pace of technological advance could lead to the exclusion of large and very important sectors of the population from this arena. This risks the polarisation of society into those who embrace the new technologies and those who feel threatened by them and remain unaware of their potential uses and benefits.

What we're planning to do about IT

The Government has already demonstrated its commitment to promoting IT through the Information Society Initiative, which is aimed at introducing small businesses to the advantages of using communication and information technology.

It now wishes to introduce a new IT initiative aimed at the general public.

This new initiative would recognise the importance of giving people the opportunity to see the benefits of technology at first hand, in order to let them gain experience and confidence in their use.

We will aim to achieve a fundamental change in the public's attitude towards the developing Information Society through widespread and varied promotional activities, enabling greater public access to information technology and computer facilities.

How are we hoping to achieve IT?


The government is planning to provide resources for a common promotional strategy and central co-ordination of a wide range of programmes.

Within this framework, different and independent projects with shared objectives can be united under a common banner.

The government would thus be in a position to play a pivotal role in presenting a cohesive picture of all the options and benefits available to the public. Our proposed plan would position the government as a catalyst, creating a partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors, and establishing a forum within which new partneships could be formed and knowledge exchanged.

What you can do to help us with IT

We would like all interested prospective partners wanting to be considered for inclusion in this exciting initiative, to put forward their ideas to us, and to also provide outlines of current and planned activities.

These could take the form of:
We are aiming to launch the programme at the end of November '96, so there is a tight timetable and it may not be possible to include all partnership proposals in the launch package. However, this initiative has been designed as a rolling 4-year programme, and any suitable proposal may be incorporated at any time during the programme.

If you are interested in taking part in any way, or if you would like to have further discussions with the DTI, please contact Nick Trent or Paul Bernstein at:

The Department of Trade and Industry
151 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 9SS

Nick Trent
Tel: 0171 215 1380
email nick.trent@dtieed.dti.gov.uk

Paul Bernstein
Tel: 0171 215 1623
email paul.bernstein@dtieed.dti.gov.uk
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Guidelines for inclusion

The Deparrtment of Trade and Industry issued the following guidelines in November 1996.

Aims and objectives

The Government's Information Society Initiatives include a wide range of programmes aimed at business (the Information Society for Business), education (the Department for Education and Employment's Information Superhighway for Schools Initiative) and libraries. Its aim is that these should place the UK among the leading nations in the world in the development of the information society.

"IT for All" will underpin these initiatives, by increasing public awareness and use of information and communication technologies. In so doing it will improve the quality of life, enhance the skills base of the UK and expand the market for related products and for the electronic retailing of products and services

The initiative will therefore: The United Kingdom is the first major country to launch such an initiative.

The following guidelines are to help organisations decide whether their projects are likely to qualify for badging as a Partnership Initiative.

Building the partnership

"IT for All" will be based on partnership between the private, public and voluntary sectors. Both existing
and new initiatives will qualify for participation. However, all initiatives must meet the following criteria for inclusion.

They must: They must be distinctive from initiatives which: A detailed set of branch guidleines and rules for the use of the logo will in due course be supplied to applicants who are judged to have satisfied the criteria laid down in these guidelines.
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Development proposals

Draft proposals were prepared following an editorial group meeting on September 17 1996. Latest proposals are on the Guide pages.
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Article for IT Partnership Initiative newsletter

The following article is due to appear in the first newsletter of the initiative in September 1996.

Community-based IT projects range from an electronic village hall in a mining village to city-wide projects developed in partnership with local councils and businesses. Some are using satellite and video conferencing for training in rural areas, or kiosks to provide public information in supermarkets.

Most are looking for a wide range of help from industry sponsors and partners - and the groups will also be offering some opportunities in return.

Manchester Community Information Network is using computers donated by KPMG for public access points in the north of the City - including one in an Asda superstore.

Project Manager Linda Doyle said:'We help other organisations organise and present information through our systems - and the public response has been fantastic. There is enormous scope for development, if we can attract more support.'

Community Information Network Northern Ireland (CINNI) is designed to support communications between community and voluntary groups, rather than general public access. Each group can choose what they wish to do with their Internet connection: use it for local people who drop in, for training and education, for their information officer to find information, or to communicate with similar groups or people with similar interests outside their community.

NewTEL in east London is providing training and support to get the voluntary sector online in Newham and is promoting the establishment of a cross sector community network in the borough.

The Bristol Connections project is developing multi-media productions by community organisations, and disseminating these by CD-ROM and later a World Wide Web site.

Network 2000 is using satellite broadcasting, video conferencing, phone and face to face conferencing for rural training programmes in Devon and Cornwall.

In South Yorkshire where communities faced big job losses through pit closures, Grimethorpe Electronic Village Hall, based in the Acorn Centre, 'provides a place with a friendly atmosphere, where members of the public can discuss their computer hardware and software problems .'

Steve Bradshaw, who was made redundant from the Coalite plant last year said: "Access to the centre's computers has been really useful. It's given me the confidence in my own ability to learn and it's great fun."

Although all projects need money, they emphasise that help in kind from business partners can be particularly valuable. Many projects aim to operate as non-profit distributing companies, so training and support to develop financial and adminstrative systems can be as important as technical expertise.

An online brainstorm of support needed by groups, organised by Communities Online, yielded the following practical business needs:
* Assistance in business planning, marketing, publicity
* Help with fundraising, setting up a company and registering a charity
* Marketing expertise with access to other media channels - TV, radio, local press
* Short or long term secondment to assist with training and development work

In developing their IT work groups were looking for:
* Recycled computer equipment , plus technical support to develop local or wider computer networks
* Server space, studio time, satellite air time, video conferencing facilities
* Expertise 'to develop a truly sophisticated but user friendly system that is not too techy for public use'

They are also seeking:
* Retail locations for public information kiosks
* Funding for travel and other expenses for volunteers
* 'Go see' sponsorship to enable groups to visit conferences, IT trade fairs and other groups
* Support for publicity and promotion, 'particularly to encourage a cultural change whereby the public come to identify with public computer terminals and websites as a source of useful information'

David Wilcox, editor of Communities Online Forum, said: "We will be exploring in more detail what help groups need, and the benefits partnerships may offer sponsors. As well as public recognition these could include valuable insights into their local community, staff development opportunities and a wide range of contacts.

'As a start I asked subscribers to a community networking mailing list to come up with ideas, and found that these extended well beyond calls for funds and equipment. There are going to be plenty of opportunities for matchmaking.

'For example, B usiness in the Community has already offered to discuss with retail members how more public access kiosks for local information or full Internet connection might be housed in shopping malls, department stores or supermarkets. We could also explore whether empty shops might be made available to projects.'

There is more information about community networking on the Communities Online Forum web site at http://www.webservice.bt.com/communities. Development of the site was funded by BT Community Affairs, with support from BT Labs, who are researching the potential for community networks in the UK. For further information on Communities Online and links with projects contact dwilcox@pavilion.co.uk, telephone 01273 677377.

In order to join the mailing list, send an email request to join IACN to D.Miller@sheffield.ac.uk.

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