Getting Europe online

Guest post by Sylvie Laffarge, Director Community Affairs, Europe


Get Online Week starts today across Europe, running from the 28th February – 5th March 2011. As the name suggests, the awareness week aims to get people using the Internet and gaining the skills needed to participate in the new information-based economy. Even in this age of smartphones, wi-fi hotspots and social media, 200 million people in Europe are still without the Internet.

Delivered as part of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Community Technology Skills Program (UP-CTSP), the company has partnered with Telecentre-Europe (TE), an organization dedicated to increasing the impact of telecentres throughout Europe. This is part of an ongoing initiative to provide technology-related skills to local communities. Telecentres are publicly accessible places that provide access to computers, the Internet and other digital technologies that enable individuals to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others.

It is these skills that ‘offliners’ need to be able to compete in the job market. Almost every position today will require basic Internet skills from health care and construction to agriculture and manufacturing. Across Europe mums returning to work after a period of time away, the unemployed and the disabled are often those left behind when it comes to technology fluency as they don’t have access to the right tools and training.

Get Online Week sees a variety of events taking place in 27 contributing countries across Europe, including open access sessions, workshops and local demonstrations. The week began with a launch event on 24th February in Belgium, supported by the European Commission and featuring guest speakers Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and Philippe Courard, Belgium Secretary of State for Social Integration and the Fight Against Poverty. Kroes pushed the button on the European online counter and witnessed the first person get online at Interface3, a Non Governmental Organization in Brussels that works with disadvantaged women to provide IT skills and is participating in Get On-Line Week

Neely_KroesNeelie Kroes, Vice President of the EC in charge of the Digital Agenda visits the Belgian Telecentre operated by Interface3 to launch Get Online Week, a pan-European campaign under her patronage. The target is to get 100,000 digitally excluded people to go online for the first time.

Microsoft believes access to ICT skills opens the way to skilled jobs, better lives and stronger communities and is continually working to provide technology to individuals who wouldn’t ordinarily have access. In its 2010 fiscal year, Microsoft donated to 7,000 Non Government Organizations across 32 countries in Europe with over $80m worth of software and funding through Unlimited Potential programs. With a specific focus on providing technology-related skills through community telecentres, Microsoft provides TE with the technology to reach offliners and engage them through a professional and business-like service so they can ultimately learn, grow and develop skills.

Get Online Week is just the start of this process - making people aware of the facilities available to them in their own communities. With continued support and training, offliners can become onliners and take the first steps towards career success in virtually every sector of the economy.

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Sylvie Laffarge, Director Community Affairs Europe at Microsoft.

Sylvie J. Laffarge is Director of Community Affairs and oversees Microsoft’s community and philanthropic investments and outreach in Europe. This includes leading Microsoft’s flagship community investment programs including the Unlimited Potential, Community Technology Skills Program, software donations and employee volunteering.


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