Volunteers boost Government internet campaign

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The Independent Tech

A Government-sponsored campaign to get more people using the internet claimed today to have recruited the country's biggest ever cross-sector volunteer force.

Race Online 2012, headed by dotcom pioneer Martha Lane Fox, said it had 100,000 people signed up to offer help and advice in their local communities.

They are drawn from the ranks of public services such as the Post Office, organisations such as the Scouts, charities and major corporate sponsors.

It has also launched a scheme offering cut-price £165 computer and software packages - with those receiving certain state benefits able to get the refurbished machines for £95.

Moving more services online is expected to save the taxpayer millions of pounds a year but critics have warned the old and vulnerable could lose out.

Prime Minister David Cameron said nearly half of those who were not yet online were "among our most disadvantaged people.

"That's why the work Martha Lane Fox is doing as the UK's Digital Champion is so important. And it's also why I'm so keen for everyone to get behind Race Online 2012 and its ambition to get as many people online as possible by the time of the London Olympics," he said.

Ms Lane Fox said: "By bringing together an extraordinary mix of cross-sector partners we aim to eliminate the three major barriers that we know prevent people from getting online: access, motivation and skills.

"Today we are beginning to address all of these by creating a massive local digital champion network aimed at giving people advice, support and assistance on a local level and by kick-starting a low cost recycled marketplace."

The landmark was passed as the Cabinet Office launched an early prototype of a single website through which all government services could eventually be accessed.

Ministers hope moving to a single domain could cut the Government's £130 million-a-year spending on internet publishing in half.