Quite a Scheme

This post was originally published on BT Inside Out blog.

‘Two nations separated by a common language’ (George Bernard Shaw).  I frequently hear that quoted in reference to the British/American divide. As a dual citizen who has spent more than half my working life here, I see both similarities and differences all the time. And I think we can learn from both.

BT recently launched a program that allocates a proportion of our community investment resources to partnerships outside of the UK.

In the US we have settled on a partnership with One Economy.

One Economy is focused on digital inclusion – a major component of BT’s community investment strategy.   Just this morning I booked an appointment for a blood test for myself. The particular lab only books appointments online.  I saw first-hand the extent to which use of the internet is a critical component of gaining access to day to day services.

What stops people getting on the internet?    Surprisingly, although cost of broadband is a component, it is not the only factor.

A recent FCC study in the USA shows that digital literacy (how to use computers and the internet)  and awareness of the beneficial impact on one’s life are also critically important.

Bridging the gap

The generation gap between the young and old defines a key digital inclusion barrier.  This is so in the UK and the US.    BT runs a very successful programme in the UK called Internet Rangers that inspires young people introduce their grandparents to the internet. This has proven to be a very successful route to helping grow digital literacy in older generations, and in parallel encourage good communications across generations.

In launching a partnership in the USA my aim was to leverage some of BT’s experience from the UK and use our grant to build a US online program for young people to inspire older generations to use the internet.

The program may be slightly different over here to accommodate cultural and other differences, but I am certain that we will have a lot to learn from the experiences on both sides of the Atlantic that will make both programmes better.  I hope someday that we can run a joint initiative across the programs and connect young people and adults across the pond to compare experiences.

You can see more about what we are doing together with a short video interview with our partner at One Economy on my blog.

We will need a new name though. In the USA, the Ranger either rides with Tonto or works in the National Park Service. I guess we really are two nations separated by a common language after all!


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