My View, Ros Jones - How we can all get online

This week is the eighth national Get Online Week, inspiring people across the UK to get online and do more with digital skills.

We all know that, over the last few years, the internet has revolutionised the way most people live their lives. It has fundamentally changed the volume of information available to people and the speed with which they can access that information.

Websites are fundamental to most businesses and some are solely web-based traders.

So many transactions now happen electronically that losing your internet connection can really stop you in your tracks.

Online interactions are also changing the way in which public services, and politicians, interact with local people. Indeed, Doncaster Council is currently redeveloping its website to include more transactional features, making it easier for residents to access public services.

Even I have started to blog and tweet! You can follow me on Twitter at @MayorRos.

There are issues too. The people who are less likely to be online are the elderly and those who cannot afford it. In the modern age where seemingly everything is done over the internet, that presents a challenge. People who can’t get online often find it more difficult to get the best deals, for example on gas and electricity prices. That means sometimes those who can least afford to pay more end up doing exactly that.

It’s one of the reasons we made sure residents could sign up to my Big Power Switch by phone or in person.

Getting online is clearly a good thing though, so we must do what we can to help people access the internet and provide modern web-based services for people who wish to use them.

That is why I was very heartened to hear about local residents Ruby Bowling, aged 93, and her husband George, 92. Ruby was the first recipient of an ebook from Doncaster Council’s Digital Library, making use of the service before anyone else.

Since then, Ruby hasn’t looked back - she uses her iPad to look at old photographs, read books, and keep in touch with their son Steven, who uses the internet to speak to them from the Solomon Islands.

Speaking about her online life and the Digital Library, Ruby said: “Reading has always been such a big part of my life. I love having all my books there at the touch of a button, as well as photos and other things. I’d recommend getting online to anyone and everyone.”

I couldn’t agree more. What’s more, for those who don’t have internet access at home they can still pop to the library, take out an old fashioned paper book and, while they are there, use our public internet facility to do their online jobs.

We are also asking members of the public to complete a survey of their internet usage, to help us make our online services even better. For more details visit Doncaster Council online

* Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster