back to article Web czar: 'Drag your nan online'

The UK's digital champion Martha Lane Fox has launched a campaign to get the 30 million people in the country who use the internet to help the 8.7 million who still haven't gone online onto the web in the free hour when the clocks change. The 'Give an hour' campaign aims to narrow the digital divide by getting web-surfers to …


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  1. Andrew Baines Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    So you give up an hour, then you get constant phone calls for help.

    No thanks.

    1. Arrrggghh-otron

      Beat me too it...

      Been there, done that, avoided the phone calls ever since...

    2. Thomas 4

      Better idea

      Tell them that by visiting, their internet connection will start working again, *THEN* hang up the phone.

      1. Richard Taylor 2

        is that

        one or two ls in the address?

  2. RISC OS

    8.7 million who still haven't gone online onto the web

    ...maybe because they don't want to be on the web?

    When I'm old I shall be one of those old people who still have never used a touch screen. I shant need any poncy "Czar " telling me I should be using one... I think she is more worried about becuase for her they could be potential customers for her companies.

    If people don't want to use computers they don't have to... I use mine less and less as I get older, there are more important things to do.

    1. Dr Paul Taylor


      My grandmother threw a fit on the one occasion when she was asked to use a telephone, my parents refuse to use computers (Mum has Alzheimer's anyway) and I refuse to use F***b**k.

      Maybe MLF could do something useful like making GPs use email.

  3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    The extra hour when the clocks change?

    That would be 1am, then.

    More seriously, if she thinks 1 hour is enough time to get someone both online and *safe* in charge of a computer, she's barking. Still, I'm sure the world's phishers will appreciate her efforts to supply them with fresh meat.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      1am? Great timing.

      Sure...wake up the old folks in the middle of the night to persuade them that getting connected to something they could probably care less about is a good idea.

      Sounds like a sure-fire way to get written OUT of the will.

  4. HMB


    I already got my Gran on-line.

    She was impressed with it and thinks it's wonderful, but with not being able to see a practical use for her she's unwilling to spend the money on it.

    When I visit her I show her things on my Touchpad, so who knows, she may change her mind, but not any time soon I don't think.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Whose nan is going to be up at 2am when the clocks go back?! - I don't think she's thought that through.

    And if we've used up that hour it'll be havoc in March when we want it back again.

  6. A. Lewis

    Not very well done

    I signed up for this a few weeks ago, and ticked all the 'send me info' boxes. I don't know anyone, myself, who is "not online". But I'm happy to donate my time if there's someone in my local area I could help.

    But I've heard nothing at all from them. I suppose I could put up some flyers around the area, prostituting-- er, I mean offering for hire, my tech-training services. But I could've done this anyway, so why did I sign to be (as they cringe-inducingly labeled me upon registration) a 'digital champion' with this campaign?

  7. Kevin Fairhurst

    If I am awake at 2am Sunday when the clocks go back and we get an extra hour, I don't envisage spending it with my nan ;)

  8. Anonymous Cowherder

    Needs more than an hour

    I got my 70+ year old Mum online earlier this year, nearly killed the pair of us!

    I have worked in IT for over 10 years and been using PCs since the early 90s but I was unprepared for someone who had never sat at a keyboard since typing classes in school. The little things that I not only take for granted but are so ingrained as second nature just do not exist in someone who has never used a computer.

    Holding a mouse, double clicking, relating what the input device is doing and causing the things on the screen to change, the concept of the taskbar, not having to tidy things away after yourself and hundreds of other things I have blocked out.

    I'm normally pretty good at showing users how to use stuff but at least they have a basic grasp of what is going on, if the person has never used a PC before though, I was struggling to relate.

    She is a lot better now than she was and I suppose I too have improved at helping her but this Saturday was almost square one. She said she was "deleting a program and the computer put up this box, I didn't know what it meant so I wrote it down and pressed cancel"

    My ears were on alert from the "deleting a program" as she doesn't have admin rights, turns out she meant deleting an email and thunderbird asked whether she wanted to compact the folder to save space? There was a tickbox with "Ask this next time" or somesuch. Now she's a fairly intelligent person but she does not engage brain when at the keyboard, like many people, the PC scares her as she is out of her comfort zone, when I walked her through the error message in simple language she got it, showed her the concept of ticking or unticking boxes to stop things happening again but I don't think she got it.

    She can still email her friends in France and Canada, update her meter readings online and look at a few clothing websites but the vast majority of delights the web has to offer are going to remain beyond her.

    1. Neil Charles

      You're right there

      It takes a lot more than an hour and you forget how much about PCs we take for granted.

      My 80 year old nan struggled for a while with the idea that moving the mouse forward and back made the pointer on the screen go up and down. It sounds funny, but it was a totally alien control method to her, having got as far as early electric typewriters and then stopped.

      She's online now though and problem solving for herself. We got my grandparents a photo printer for Christmas and they love it - it's got a bridge straight to the camera with no pc involved and if you forget about the fact that my nan prints out everything on the camera each time she prints, then it works fine.

      I sent her some holiday snaps by email (which she loves to get) and she wanted to show them to a friend. The printer's not attached to the PC, but she can print straight from the camera. So the pictures were paged through, one at a time on the monitor, and photographed. Then printed direct from the camera.


  9. Wheaty73

    MLF: shut it you nutter

    an hour? it would take longer than that to explain what a mouse is.

    People not online now don't care, or have relatives to do all the shopping around for tariffs and deals. MLF rwally does live on another planet.

  10. hplasm

    I don't want to-

    get up at 1am to bother some old person.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll give an hour for setting everything up.

    If she gives her phone number for when 'the computers doing that thing again'.

  12. smudge

    What a daft suggestion!

    Use the free hour? My Nan's always asleep at two in the morning.

  13. Chris 3

    The problem is...

    ... by this stage the people who aren't online already probably have a particular reason for not doing so. That might be that there are totally intransigent and the last thing they want is someone (again) trying to get them to go online.

    It may be that they are too poor to have a machine at home and hate the idea of being tutored in a public library.

    I'd be very interested to see some data from the survey to see what proportion of the "have not used" are open to the idea of using the Web.

    My parents, in their 80s made the conscious decision to go online because "that's the way the world's going" - I'm ever so glad I installed LogMeInFree on their machine, however.

  14. Pete 2 Silver badge

    When the clocks change ?

    > help the ... in the free hour when the clocks change.

    So we're supposed to get them out of bed at 02:00 and teach them how to use Google?

    Apart from them still being asleep - and just incorporating the whole miserable experience into a bad dream, it's more than likely that a lot of the people being targeted here have no desire whatsoever to use the internet. Despite what the celebrity zealots may want to beliieve.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    She can have an hour of my time, anytime she likes mmmmmmm.

  16. Reality Dysfunction


    Won't your gran be annoyed when you wake her up at 2am to get her on the net?

  17. Anonymous Coward

    How many of those 8.7m are interested?

    I would have thought we are pretty much down to the 'too old to care' and 'techno luddites' by now...

  18. Blofeld's Cat

    "Extra" hour?

    Sorry Martha,

    Most of my relatives, colleagues and friends have been online for years. I know this because I periodically have to fix their machines.

    I don't think that the others would want to go online at 02:00 GMT - even if the nursing home would let them.

    Anyway it's not an extra hour. It's a replacement for the one taken from me in March.

  19. AnonymousCoward

    Really, we want to help but...

    I wish it was only an hour. I have lost count of the time spent trying to educate older family members how to use a computer offline let alone online with all the potential risks that brings with it. I have even had to make trips to other countries to fix things when they have really gone wrong.

    I dont think any of these people are stupid but the technical hurdle required to use a computer and keep it going is a big one. They also dont use the machine enough so you tell them how to do something then a week later when they next turn the computer on again they have forgotten again.

    For some people current technology is too complex to master, for those of us who try to help we need better tools to do so. Microsoft Remote Assistance? Great, find the short cut, enter a password, send the email to a friend who might or might not be around and wait for them to connect. Direct connection via RDP or VNC, ok - figure out how to get past the router and NAT and DynamicIP addressing.... Oh - your internet conneciton is not working.....

    iPad - no remote access at all. "Where has my mail icon gone"? Who knows, I cant see your screen.

    Bah, as an industry I am sure we can do better.

  20. rurwin

    Of all the stupid ideas...

    My 80+ year-old mother in law will have been in bed for several hours by the time the clocks change. She is also several miles away and doesn't like driving in the dark.

    But I'll pop over there at one in the morning, drag her out of bed and demonstrate FacePalm on my phone (With characters so small she wont be able to see them, let alone read them.)

    I'm sure she will be impressed.

  21. Steve the Cynic

    Wait! What?

    Seriously? What is the non-connected neighbour going to say if I turn up at 2am on Sunday morning (because that's when the extra hour is, folks) to help him/her get connected?

    I'm not sure, but I doubt that it will be printable.

  22. Mr Young

    Perpetual nonsense!

    Yer breaking the laws of physics Martha

  23. TimNevins
    Thumb Down

    What they mean to say is

    We cannot spy easily on you if you are not online.

    We cannot generate consumer profiling if you are not online.

    We cannot degrade existing face to face services and re-direct you online websites...

    We cannot get you to spend more money online esp. gambling.

  24. Turtle_Fan

    Just 1 hour...?

    I've ended up with the unenviable title of IT administrator of an extended family which means I've helped put about 12 elder people online and happily doing whatever they need to.

    However, if it wasn't for things like teamviewer and logmein they'd still be waiting for someone to fix things up.

    On the bright side, they do come up with some genuinely funny things when the machines don't quite work as they used to or any messages pop up that are out of the ordinary. My favourite was an urgent distress call from the in-laws who experience a temp outage on their ADSL and wanted help because "they broke the internet".

    Have to say though, out of the 12, only one person actually ended up using it increasingly and now can do much more than what I initially explained to them.

  25. Ben Liddicott

    "I believe there is both a moral and social case ...

    ... for taking hard-earned money from you lot and spending it on paying my friends to try to get people to use the web who don't want to."

    As long as the case is both social AND moral. What the heck is a "social case" anyway? Or is that "social morality" being something different to actual morality? Maybe it means "pay up or go to the gulag"?

    I believe there is a social and moral case for firing Martha Lane Fox.

  26. jake Silver badge

    Well ...

    Me GreatAunt (95ish) has been using Gopher to publish her life's story over these last 18 years. Does that count?

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Cheap volunteers again?

      We use to teach 'computing for beginners' to all and sundry. It was great seeing an 86 year old develop from a very intelligent old lady into a very intelligent old lady who could push a few mouse buttons in a logical way. On average it took one term to get people doing something useful, less than half would continue to do anything useful as they forgot everything as soon as they walked out of the door until the next week! It was rewarding but bleedin' difficult ...

      I've never taught my mother how to use a computer and won't even try until she remembers how to use the 'on', 'play' and 'eject' buttons on the dvd player I got her three years ago in a logical order ... She would never have to ask me what the 'start' button in windoze does ... why should she care? The first menu after the first click would confuse her silly ...

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      That's just so typical of the elderly.

      Always have to do things the old-fashioned way, no matter how obsolete. Never move with the times. My Grandmother used a copper posser and a mangle to do her washing 'til the day she died........sheesh.

  27. Bluenose

    Where do the Govt find these stupid T**Ts

    My mother in law is nearly 90 and has alzheimers, my mother is in her 70s and has dementia. My dad has no interest in computers as they don't server beer when he wants to watch the footie and he has me and my brothers to do his web searching, flight booking and other internet required activities.

    My challenge to MLF and the other political dipsticks is find a way to make sure that those who can't/don't want to use the internet can still get the benefit of those lower prices for life's essentials (power, heating, etc) and that they can still get a face to face meeting with people to explain what benefits are available to them now that all their savings have been taken by the big six energy companies to pay the directors bonuses.

  28. Isendel Steel
    IT Angle

    Doesn't want it

    My mother in law (almost shortened that to a TLA) doesn't see the need for the internet - and being on restricted means doesn't see the need to pay for it either.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can't even persuade my mum to use a bloody cashpoint or Direct Debits!

  30. Richard Porter

    Missing out, or just missing out the stress?

    "If someone you know is missing out on the internet, they're missing out on loads of ways to make their life easier and more enjoyable,"

    Maybe they don't even want to turn the computer on, if they actually have one (possibly left by a deceased partner). There are some nonogenarians who are alert and have lively minds; there are others who just think "why should I have to bother with all this new-fangled technology stuff at my age". For the latter it's just too daunting.

    Perhaps when IP-TV becomes more popular that will be an easier way onto the web.

  31. Wupspups

    Doesnt she mean the other 31 million who dont use the internet

    Given the current population of the Great Britain is just over 61 million and 30 million of them use the internet. Surely they should be helping the other 31 million. Not just 8.7 million or are the other 22.3 million just a figment of the imagination. Or maybe Miss should stick to ancient and modern history instead of arithmetic cos she sure cant add up.

  32. Peter Mc Aulay
    Thumb Down

    Remember what happened to the last Czar.

    Fuck off you twat, there are enough computer illiterates online already.

  33. Blitheringeejit

    Vested Interest

    Surely MLF is the last person who should be in charge of deciding how much to encourage folks to go online - she's an internet entrepreneur for chrissake! She and her kind want the net to be the lifestyle choice of choice because that's what pumps up her bank balance - but the reality is that a computer is just a tool to do a job. OK, it's a versatile tool and can do many different jobs - but that doesn't mean that everyone has some need which would best be fulfilled by a computer or a net connection.

    I find that old folks are perfectly capable of working out for themselves what they need doing, and asking for technical help with this if they need any. But they're also better at making real friends instead of virtual ones, and not spending their hard-earned money on the latest stupid fad.

    Rather than getting MLF to help the old folks get online, we should be asking the old folks to help the government work out how to get us out of the economic cloud-cuckoo-land we now live in because we took too much notice of people like MLF over the last twenty years.

  34. Just Thinking

    Suppose it did work

    8.7 million people all trying to sign with an ISP on the same day?

    But it won't happen. Anybody who isn't online yet probably never will be for whatever reason.

    Certainly the only people I know who aren't online are a great aunt (well on the way to 100) and an elderly relative who was brought up in wartime rural Poland and has simply never felt the need to have anything electronic other than a TV and a landline phone.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A likely story...

    "RISC OS" has never used a touch-screen?

    Pull the other ARM, it's got bells on...

  36. Nick Pettefar

    Selfish Bastards

    I spend a considerable amount of time and effort and money, being the IT provider and facilitator for my extended family. This is how it is supposed to be. That is what you are for. Just do it.

    (I find for non-techies that Macs - used Mac Minis are the cheapest - involve the least amount of fuss, bother and call-outs. Windows never stops the grief and Linux is too baffling. YMMV. Keep backups!)

  37. Chris Rowland

    I got my late father on the internet; he gave up at about 89, six months before he died.

    He could cope with email fairly well but the www was more of a problem.

    He couldn't find links, mostly because creative people would design web pages with their own slyle. Saying that you can tell where the links are because they are in blue and underlined just didn't work reliably. He needed that sort of simple rule and there aren't any.

    As people say, it's more than an hour's work. The sort of thing you will do for your close family.

  38. Pantagoon

    A Waste of Time

    Just leave it a few years - they'll be dead soon.

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