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'Everybody Online - Caithness'

6th June 2009

'Everybody Online - Caithness', the first project of its kind in the Highlands, is being launched to allow locals who have never had the chance to use the internet to discover what it can do. The project being funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with the support of BT Scotland, is run by a national charity 'Citizens Online' and aims to use technology to help communities counter social disadvantage.

"People use the internet now in all aspects of their lives: as part of their jobs, for social networking, to save cash by shopping online and to communicate with each other. For anyone who has never had access to a computer or the internet this can be isolating.

"This project is designed to allow people to gain confidence about going online. This can be done easily and informally and people can try things like surfing the net and e-mailing. The bigger picture for Caithness is that by providing the opportunities to get people using the web they enjoy all the benefits of learning new skills, improving well-being and increasing employability, " said Annemarie Monteforte of HIE.

Brendan Dick, director, BT Scotland, said: "The digital divide is a major problem in the UK with millions of people missing out on the huge benefits offered by the internet. It is vital for these individuals and for our economy that they are able to get online. Otherwise, a substantial minority of the UK population will find itself even more isolated and excluded.

"Everybody Online is an important part of BT's campaign to make the internet more accessible to everybody. Other initiatives include our work with BT Community Connections, which awards internet-ready computers to community groups across the UK, and BT Internet Rangers, helping young people encourage adults get online."

Shona Macdonald has been appointed as the Project Officer and she will be working from the Community Learning Offices in Thurso. She commented:

"I have already started speaking to groups including the Ormlie Community Association. I am keen to discuss the project with any organisations working with local residents and I can also be contacted by individuals who would like to hear how they can get involved. It doesn't matter what you do or what age you are, if you haven't had the opportunity to explore what the internet is capable of then we can help."

She added: "This is a three year project and we hope that the benefits will be felt in many ways, everything from making people more self confident when using technology to spin offs including increases in small business start up or on-line promotion of local businesses."


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