Will you help other people to get online?
If you're reading this page, then by definition you're online. But there are a staggering 9 million adults in the UK who have never used the internet, which means we probably all know someone who has never regularly used the net (yes, we know, a frankly terrifying concept if you're a prolific MNetter).
And it's not just the social networking side of the net that's passing some people by, it's the opportunity to save money, too: even allowing for start-up costs, online households can save £560 a year by paying bills and shopping online.
So we're supporting Race Online's Go ON campaign and want to mobilise a network of Mumsnet Digital Champions who can inspire, encourage, show and help other people to get on the internet.
What can Mumsnet Digital Champions do?
- Actively seek out people who haven't used the internet before - this could be a family member or friend, or someone you know through your work (paid or voluntary), religious community, community centre, gym, pub etc.
- Get your Digital Champion welcome pack and promotional materials, and use them to tell other people about the six benefits of the internet and inspire them to learn more.
- Organise events or sessions where you show non-internet users the things they can do online eg searching for things on Google/Bing, getting the news, price comparison sites etc.
- Organise a weekly internet surgery to answer questions - you don't have to know all the answers, just look them up on the internet or speak to an experienced Digital Champion.
- Give people the number 0800 77 1234 or get them to use the postcode search on www.go-on.co.uk/champions so they can find out where their local free internet courses are available.
- Direct 'non-liners' to where they can buy low-cost 'first timers' packages (computer and broadband).
- Donate spare IT equipment.
What skills do Digital Champions need?
- Basic computer skills (turning PC on, using a mouse, connecting to the net, using web browser)
- Confidence about using the internet
- Basic organisational skills
What personal qualities do Digital Champions need?
- Ability to get to know people in order to understand their interests and motivations
- Patience with people who are learning something for the first time
- An interest in working with other Digital Champions to help people get online
- Enthusiasm about the possibilities the internet offers
- Get your welcome pack.
- Make contact with a Digital Champion at your local library or UK Online centre. This way you can refer people to free internet courses.
- Find resources, tools and useful links on www.go-on.co.uk/champions.
- Ask questions and share stories with other Digital Champions through the Facebook Group at www.facebook.com/digitalchampions.
Myth-busters (aka what to say to people who think the internet isn't for them)
- "I'm not interested." You don't need you to be - the internet helps you with your interests. Whatever your hobby or favourite pastime, the internet can help you become better at it, find the things you need for it, as well as connect with people who share your passion
- "It's not for me." Mice, modems, wwws... You may think you've got by pretty well in life so far without it. True, but things are changing. More and more of the things you need to do in life are done online, and there are umpteen websites with info, fellow fans, videos that will open up a world of knowledge (and fun).
- "It's beyond me." Computers look complicated but there's really nothing to be frightened of - and you can always grab a friend or neighbour if you get in a muddle, or go to UK Online centres or libraries to find courses with other people in the same position as you.
- "I can't afford it." You can use the kit and connectivity at UK Online Centres and libraries for free. Or, if you want to get online at home, the price-tags on computer are falling everyday, while broadband connections can cost as little as £7 a month.
- "I might break it." Computers don't blow up. The worst that can happen is that you'll turn it off by mistake.
- "The idea of being 'taught' fills me with dread." Lots of us find it easier to learn on computers than we did in classrooms. Computers let you learn at your own pace and without anyone looking over your shoulder.
- "What about online crime?" There is a slight risk, but if you use your common sense, just like you do in the real world, and make sure your security software is up to date you'll be OK. Be prepared for unwanted messages in your email address, but bin them, just like you do with junk mail. There's also www.getsafeonline.org where you can go to learn more.
- "I'm too old." Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the internet, was born in 1955. And Britain's oldest user of Twitter (an online way of keeping in touch), Ivy Bean, was 104. So what are you waiting for? Go ON, don't miss out – ask for help today.
And last but not least, what you'll get out of being a MN Digital Champ is the knowledge that you've helped someone (or more than one person) to find a new-found independence and skill. And that's got to be pretty satisfying.
Watch: Janet Ellis explains what the over-50s can get out of the internet, in this Gransnet guide to starting out online.