Following turbulent times, the year to March 2012 has seen a calming of the political waters. The new coalition government is bedded in, their priorities for cost-cutting are clear and the focus on moving public services online is an immediate priority.
With the introduction of the Universal Credit planned for 2013, ensuring people have the skills and the confidence they need to claim and manage their benefits online is a priority that will continue to resonate in the coming years.
The decision by the Skills Funding Agency to launch a competitive tender for the management of the UK online centres network in 2011 demonstrates the government's commitment to supporting grassroots organisations help people to get online in their communities, something we’re understandably delighted about.
Martha Lane Fox continues in her role as the UK Digital Champion, and April 2012 saw her launch a new charity, Go ON UK, to bring together partners from the public, private and third sectors to get every person and organisation in the UK online. The calibre of partners is extremely high, and we’re looking forward to working with them all over the coming months and years.
Despite this commitment, there are still 8.2 million people in the UK who are offline according to the latest figures from the ONS, and many more who can't take advantage of all the benefits it can provide. With more and more services moving online, and the benefits that the internet can provide clearer than ever, these people are becoming more disadvantaged and harder to reach than ever.
Over the coming year, our strategy will reflect this divide as we launch specialist programmes and networks, bringing the internet to those who can most benefit from it, and inspiring change in communities using technology. Supporting the launch of Universal Credit will form a large part of the work done by UK online centres, as we work closely with government departments and other partners to ensure that everyone - whether they have digital skills or not - can access and manage their benefits, as well as taking advantage of everything the online world can provide.