Can’t Get Online Week Challenge

Leeds Social Media Surgery

Social Media is a wonderful feature of our lives these days. Every day I interact with hundreds of lovely people who are part of my network. Wherever I can, I try to help out people who have questions or who are seeking information, and I hope I manage to be of use.

Now, I need your support. I’ve been lucky enough to secure some sponsorship for a project, but I need your help to raise the rest of the funding I need to make this happen. Please read on, and hopefully, you’ll be inspired to make a contribution, however small, to help me make this happen. Even if you can’t contribute, I’d be really grateful if you could spread the word, either on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, or just tell a friend. If you are part of an organisation or company that might contribute in cash or in kind, or know someone who is, that would also be fantastic. Please go here to make a contribution

Great Asby

So, this is the project. I’m going on a Challenge, during Get Online Week (30th October – 6th November 2011)  to visit some of the communities in our country which have been left behind in the drive for 21st Century technologies. I want to visit those areas which struggle for internet connectivity, and where the benefits that the internet can bring have, to date, passed people by. The funding I have secured so far is from the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), who were kind enough also to help me out with #twicket and the Social Media Surgery at the Great Yorkshire Show. I am extremely grateful for their support. Because of the nature of the CLA’s funding, the communities I visit will need to be in the Midlands, the East, and the North of England; sorry, Southerners. Maybe next year.

Every year for the past 10 years, UK Online Centres have run Get Online Week. For the past three years, the Week has been given a high profile by the leadership of Martha Lane Fox, the Government’s Digital Champion. Every year the week is punctuated by staged, set piece events demonstrating how people are getting online for the first time, and the benefits it is bringing to their lives. These events generally receive lots of publicity including national, regional and local media attention. I’ve been involved in the national launch of Get Online Week myself in the past, and I think it is a very important part of the digital landscape.

During Get Online Week, however, there is also considerable frustration, not to say anger, expressed by people living in rural areas about the lack of recognition of the problems most people in sparsely populated areas have with getting online. I know a lot of people think this is a secondary issue, which shouldn’t be allowed to complicate a simple message about getting the sceptics, the timid, and the refuseniks online. But the reality is that, at a time of heightened awareness of the opportunities and benefits of being online, rural communities and businesses experience feelings of increased frustration at their plight.

Great Asby 2


So, my plan is this. I’m going to undertake a social media tour of rural communities during Get Online Week shining the spotlight on their issues and difficulties and highlighting potential solutions. I will tour the communities shooting and uploading video of the activities and conducting audio interviews with key parties. The aim will be to garner material from a cross-section of interested parties, particularly business people, farmers, school children, college students, and elderly people, about the issues which prevent them from getting online. I will also document my journey and post reflections on the day every evening, as well as drawing together all the material at the end of the adventure.

I intend this as a complement to Get Online Week. I have run the idea past both Martha Lane Fox, and Helen Milner, Managing Director of UK Online Centres, and both have made supportive comments.

Rural Broadband

I need this event to get lots of publicity, and I still need to raise significant funds to make it happen.  This will include contacting local newspapers in the areas I am due to visit, and seeing if I can secure slots on local radio programmes.


I’m looking to make this a proper challenge.  I’m asking people to challenge me to help them get online and use social media even though they may have come up against seemingly insurmountable barriers in the past, whether those barriers be of connectivity, technology or attitude. I’ll choose the communities to be visited in the basis of these submissions. Also, during the week, I will intend to visit those communities which have taken the plunge and secured their own connectivity to illustrate what they are using it for and the benefits it brings them.

So, the campaign starts now – building towards the first week in November. The fund-raising is designed to give the audience a stake in the week and ensure the publicity builds over a longer period, giving it more impact. This is an adventure, delving into the parts of Britain the internet cannot reach and seeing what can be done about it. As part of the fund raising exercise, I will endeavour to secure support from connectivity and equipment suppliers (such as mobile broadband, satellite, and telecoms companies, with whom I have some links) to provide solutions to some of the connectivity problems I encounter. I’d also like other social media users in the locality to join me on the visits to ensure a wide range of materials can be generated from a number of different perspectives.  A key part of the project will be the bringing to prominence of connectivity and access issues, and the engagement of funders and suppliers in providing long term solutions to the problems identified.

Great Yorkshire Show Social Media Surgery

I’d love you moral support, your supportive comments (below), your company, your suggestion of where to visit, offers of somewhere to stay, or anything else you can do to help the challenge; but, I also need your money; so please jump over to and contribute whatever you can. Offers of in-kind support in the comments below, please.

Oh, and if you can’t contribute directly, you can help by publicising this post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, or wherever else you hang out. Tell your friends down the pub, at the WI, in the post office queue…….


5 thoughts on “Can’t Get Online Week Challenge

  1. This is a great project John. I have contributed – does that make me a match funder?!
    If you haven’t already, you may find it useful to contact RAWM ( in order to reach rural communities through some of their members (VCS networks) in rural areas of the West Midlands. The last (and maybe only) time I conversed with someone about rural online exclusion was at a RAWM event – there are definitely interested RAWM members out there.
    Good luck, and do get in touch if you would like any help with social media surgeries or social reporting as part of this project or beyond – I might be able to pop out to somewhere in the West Mids.

  2. Have to say that Crowdfunder thing is a reet PITA. I gave it access to my Facebook details and I still have to register to use it ? WTF ?

  3. Good for you John, great that this project is gaining momentum and even a few celebs (did Hugh Bonnerville let slip what happens in Downtown this series?!)
    I’ve posted the project on facebook : )

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