Figures show internet giving ‘new life’ to communities

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streetwise poss PPP-140705-103135001
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New research from BT has revealed that the Internet is breathing new life into the UK’s community spirit, challenging the common perception that time spent online drives us apart.

The new research shows more than 80 per cent of people in the South East rely on the Internet to take advantage of a wide range of local services and businesses, as well as helping many people to get involved in their local community.

Meanwhile, more than one in ten people who took part in the survey use free Wi-Fi outside of their home as a way of getting out of the house and into the neighbourhood.

In March 2015 BT and Barclays announced a partnership to launch an innovative community based programme to put free Wi-Fi and hands on digital support into 100 libraries and other community sites in deprived areas across the UK.

Graham Jones, Internet behavioural psychologist, says: “We live in an increasingly online world. There is often a perception that this has led to a more fractured society, however this research actually proves that access to the Internet is driving communities across the UK closer together.

“Online access clearly helps people foster more connections with local businesses and social activities in their neighbourhood.”

The Internet was accessed every day, or almost every day, by 78 per cent of adults aged 16 and over in the UK in 2015, compared with 35 per cent in 2006.

While smartphone and home broadband usage is on the rise, research shows that 5.9 million adults are still facing barriers when using technology and getting online, and 11 per cent of adults in the UK have never used the Internet.

Anna Easton, BT director of sustainable business said: “Communities are build on individual connections. But too often today individuals feel isolated, by virtue of age, disability, or lack of employment.

“For these people access to the Internet can be life altering. It enables them to meet and connect with others, access local services such as housing support, schools admissions and GP services, and find out about local events.”

Elaine Draper, director of accessibility and inclusion at Barclays, says: “The BT and Barclays Wi-Fi in the Community programme has seen huge success already, with a focus on training, development and up-skilling at its heart. Far from driving us apart, the Internet has opened doors; from enabling us to stay in touch with loved ones, to making our lives easier and offering increased access to education or employment opportunities.

“At Barclays we are working to help make sure that no one is left behind on this digital journey and we believe in the power of digital in bringing people together, therefore both Internet access and support with getting online is essential in our communities.”

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