Digital divide: Ireland wants 280,000 more people online by 2016

29 Jul 2013

Ireland’s Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, is allocating €1.4m in grants for the next phase of the nationwide BenefIT 4 training programme aimed at removing the digital divide between the connected majority and the digitally excluded minority. He has set a target of having 280,000 more people online by 2016.

Rabbitte said four out of five Irish people regularly use and benefit from the internet, but that leaves 500,000 Irish people yet to get online.

He has set a target to get 280,000 more people online by 2016.

“It’s not rocket science,” Rabbitte said. “Yes, the scale of the issue is large – with over half a million people to get online – but addressing that need not be complicated.”

A key measure of the recently launched National Digital Strategy, the BenefIT 4 training grants will be provided to 17 grantees that between them represent more than 200 organisations operating across 700 locations.

So far, more than 37,00 people have been trained, out of which one in four is an unemployed person.

The training is aimed at both absolute beginners and people trying to improve their existing skills.

Turning non-liners into onliners

Rabbitte appealed to the four out of five online citizens to help their digitally excluded neighbours and family members to get online.

“Helping someone to cross the road was always an example of a good deed,” he said, suggesting the modern equivalent would be to help people get to grips with the information superhighway.

He said that as well as video case studies illustrating the benefits to citizens of being online, his department is also working with the community and voluntary sector to provide training nationwide via the BenefIT 4 programme.

“This concerns everyone, it’s not just about the one in five yet to embrace the internet – it also about those who have the skills and what they can do,” Rabbitte said. 

“We should all ask ourselves how the internet could be helpful to someone we know and how we might be able to encourage or help them to get online. 

“For those who need help – or who want to progress further – there will now be tens of thousands of training opportunities nationwide under BenefIT 4,” Rabbitte said.

Senior digital citizens image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years