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RaceOnline 2012 Initiative Replaced by Go ON UK to Help Get Everyone Online

Monday, Apr 23rd, 2012 (9:11 am) - Score 577

The UK’s Digital Champion and head of Race Online 2012, Martha Lane Fox, has today launched a “radical new cross-sector partnership” called Go On UK that aims to bring the benefits of the internet to “every individual, organisation and community” across the country. Sound familiar? It’s really just a replacement for RO2012 that formally ends today.

It goes without saying that Race Online 2012 had set itself a difficult challenge by aiming to “get 100% of the UK population online by the time of the London Olympics [2012]” (here). We never saw such a goal as being realistic, partly because it failed to recognize that many people have no interest in internet access, but then you should always aim high. The only other problem was that ‘2012’ in the title, which would have looked silly post-2012.

Not that RaceOnline 2012 had a bad run. Two years ago more than 10 million adults across the UK had never used the internet (4 million of which were classified as being “socially excluded” due to low income etc.) and this has now fallen to 8.2 million; that probably isn’t much beyond the expected change from natural internet uptake trends. In any case we now have Go ON UK, which is almost a replica of RO2012 and should keep Martha in the job for a little longer.

Martha Lane Fox said:

The UK leads the world in most indicators of digital capability: the internet contributes more to our GDP than to that of any other G20 county and is predicted to grow 11% a year to reach £221bn by 2016 [Boston Consulting Group]. However, many individuals and organisations still struggle to exploit the broader benefits of technology, a problem that is particularly acute for our small businesses, older people and charities that are currently at risk of being left behind.

Go ON UK has an exciting vision to make the UK the world’s most digitally capable nation where no one – old or disadvantaged and no organisation – even the smallest – is left behind. This is a big challenge. But it is a challenge all of us in Go ON UK are wholly committed to, and given the combined strength of our extraordinary partners I’m confident we can deliver an outstanding national plan that will inspire real change.

We set up Race Online 2012 in 2010 as a short term campaign aimed primarily at getting more people online for the first time. Two years on, and thanks to the amazing work of our extraordinary mix of cross-sector partners and 50,000-strong local digital champion network, we have seen over 2 million new people get more out of life online.”

Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk and Go ON UK Partner, said:

The internet connects and entertains, educates and informs – it even saves money. Yet there are children growing up today in towns and cities that are fully broadband enabled who do not have internet access at home to support their education. TalkTalk believes that every family should be able to have safe and affordable internet access and, as the UK’s leading value for money broadband provider, this belief is at the very heart of our business. We are proud to be a founder partner of Go ON UK and make this vision a reality.”

Speaking of partners, Go ON UK aims to achieve its goals by working with the following groups and businesses: Age UK, BBC, Big Lottery Fund, E.ON, Lloyds Banking Group, Post Office and TalkTalk. Each has apparently pledged to share their expertise, resources, reach and networks by encouraging every organization and every individual in the UK to join them on this mission.


But Martha claims that Go ON UK, despite being almost identical to Race Online 2012, is actually a “very different organisation” because it includes “building the capacity of organisations as well as individuals“. Ok then.

Martha Lane Fox added:

Go ON UK is a very different organisation with a broader remit to include building the capacity of organisations as well as individuals. It will pick up the baton from Race Online 2012 by building on its fantastic assets and continuing to highlight the amazing benefits of the web to the final 8.2m adults who remain offline in the UK, whilst ensuring all organisations are making the best use of digital technologies. It will also have a more sustainable long term funding model, with Founder Partners committed to covering the core costs of Go ON UK for the next three years”.

The private sector including small businesses will grow twice as fast as their competitors if they are online, and evidence shows that SMEs with a web presence do get significant benefits with 68% saying it saves time and/or money and 37% agreeing it increases sales volumes (Lloyds Banking Group). The charity sector is facing unprecedented funding cuts and rising demand for services. Working with charities to use technology to deliver the best services possible for end users and take the cost out of their business has never been more urgent. Go ON UK will push for a step-change in how these sectors’ use digital – so that the small businesses that contribute so much to our prosperity can grow and compete, and so charities that are the lifeblood of our communities continue to thrive.

Failing to act now would result in charities and small businesses operating at a significant disadvantage as the rest of the UK becomes increasingly digital.”

Apparently the “new” group is currently working to develop a national plan of activities for the first 18 months and is also working towards a wider “Go ON UK vision” for 2020.

We support their efforts but at the same time it’s important not to do anything that attempts to force people online, especially when they don’t want to do it. For example, the UK government’s recent move towards making some services online-only (e.g. farming taxes) is a worrying development at a time when many rural areas still have difficulty getting good connectivity.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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