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Mary joins Lauren Laverne, Steph McGovern, Chi Onwurah MP and Baroness Lane-Fox in the search for the North East’s greatest digital champions

Mary is calling for local groups to enter the North East I Made a Difference Awards – designed to recognise and celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations in the North East who are helping boost levels of Basic Online Skills.

In the UK one in five adults (21%) currently fall below the Basic Online Skills threshold and 7 million of those remain offline. In the North East, 24% of adults are missing out on the social and economic benefits the web has to offer.

Since October 2013, Go ON UK has been working with local authorities, communities and businesses in the North East region, to help ‘super charge’ existing local digital skills activity and deliver a 25% reduction in the number of people below the Basic Online Skills threshold in 12 months.

To help inspire the regional effort, Go ON UK has launched the I Made A Difference Awards. Supported by Go ON UK Founder Partners Lloyds Banking Group, E.ON, TalkTalk, Post Office, EE and Age UK, the Awards celebrate both the people whose lives have been changed for the better by digital and those people, business and charities who have shared their Basic Online Skills with others and – in doing so – helped Go ON UK recognise its exciting ambition for the North East.

Categories range from ‘Personal Impact’ – for those who have benefited from learning Basic Online Skills – to ‘Nominate a North East Martha’, which appoints one digital champion as the face of Go ON North East. Prizes for the categories will include iPads, connectivity deals, and laptops. The winners will also have a short film produced about their achievements.

Commenting on the awards, Mary said: “Basic Online Skills are increasingly important for helping to improve people’s lives and encourage the growth of local businesses. The I Made a Difference Awards are a vital initiative, recognising the crucial efforts of people who have worked hard to share their online skills and make a difference in their community. I hope that people and projects in North Tynside will be recognised and I will be encouraging local groups and individuals to enter and vote.”

Broadcaster Lauren Laverne, who is a judge of the I Made a Difference Awards, and Patron of Go ON North East, said: “Basic Online Skills can be life changing for people of all ages. From staying in contact with your family and friends, to saving money and finding a job, having the right skills to be able to navigate the web confidently and safely is vital. I will be looking to reward those people who have gone the extra mile in their community to help transform the lives of others in the region”.

Baroness Lane-Fox, Chair of Go ON UK, said: “2014 is the 25th anniversary of the internet, and it’s more important than ever that we recognise those people who are sharing their online skills with others. From visiting the North East, I have met many inspiring people who are working tirelessly to share their skills in their communities. It’s these local digital champions who are key to helping us make the North East the UK’s most digitally skilled region and it is right that their work is acknowledged and celebrated.”

The I Made a Difference Awards are now open for nominations at www.digitalskills.com/awards, and will be until Friday 28th February 2014.

To nominate yourself or someone else, vote for your favourite, or find out more, visit www.digitalskills.com/awards