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Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Friday, 8 October 2010 11:17 UK
Suffolk's First Click campaign helps people get online
By Jon Wright
BBC Suffolk

Mousemates computer club in Brundish
The Mousemates computer club in Brundish

The BBC's First Click campaign is aimed at inspiring the millions of people across the country who are not yet online, to log on.

According to the latest figures, 17% of adults in the eastern region have never used the internet.

"I find you can always learn something new," said Beryl Whitehead, 75, from Framlingham.

"I'm going on a cruise next year so we've set up a blog. It's amazing what you can do."

Beryl goes to the Mousemates computer club in Brundish Village Hall, which is run by the Suffolk Tutors group which specialises in lessons for older computer users.

Ro Williams runs the club and says it is meant to be fun.

"It's not too serious, we all enjoy ourselves and we encourage questions," she said.

"I think you are definitely at a disadvantage now if you are not online, there are so many things you can't do if you are not online and so many things you can do if you are."

BBC First Click Logo
Look out for First Click Beginners' Computer Courses near you

First Click is a major new media literacy campaign to encourage the estimated 9.2m people in the UK who have never used the internet to take the first steps to get online.

It is being run in partnership with Race Online 2012, UK online centres and the Post Office and coincides with Get Online Week, a national initiative which runs 18-24 October 2010.

Support from the top

Rory Cellan-Jones is the BBC's technology correspondent.

"I recently had a letter from a viewer who says we do far too little to address this problem of getting the elderly online and that people aren't doing enough to explain its benefits.

"So I think we're striking a chord here. I think this is an issue that a lot of people are worried about.

"What we know is that there's quite a large section of the population, many of them over 55, who just don't use the internet and what we as the BBC can do is help them through the door.

"A couple of times in my work we've actually taken the internet for the first time to older people and they've always found it a fantastic experience and said to us afterwards, 'we didn't know what we were missing'.

"More and more government public services are now going to be put online. People who don't have access to them are going to lose out - both financially and socially.

"They'll be less able to engage with the whole democratic process. So there will be big losses."

Digital champions

Martha Lane Fox was reappointed UK Digital Champion by the new government in June 2010.

Her remit includes advising government how to provide better, more efficient online public services and accelerating efforts to help more people benefit from the power of the internet.

"Over nine million adults across the UK have never used the internet, and worryingly four million of this group are also socially excluded," she said.

"All of them are missing out on the consumer savings, access to vital information and educational success that the web has to offer.

"As industry, the media and increasingly government, expand ever faster into digital-only services, there is a need for urgent action to stop some sections of society being left offline and excluded from many aspects of everyday life."

Never too old to learn

Members of the Mousemates club in Brundish
Miriam, 82, and Les, 87 say they are still learning new things

"It's very useful," said 87-year-old Les Mardon, another Mousemates member.

"Putting all my finances together is good because it's quite complicated.

"I buy the odd share or two so I can keep up to date."

Mariam Whant from Eye said: "I find it gives me a lot more confidence to use the computer.

"Google is great for maps if you are going somewhere and want to find out what's going on."

Get involved

If you know someone who is looking for computer lessons, they can call the First Click freephone number: 08000 150 950.

This is managed on behalf of BBC Learning by Next Step, it will be open 8am to 10pm, seven days a week, from Monday, 11 October.

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