Citizens Online has been working in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council, and all seven district councils in the county, to support as many people as possible with digital skills and access to technology. We have conducted research to find out where people in need are in North Yorkshire — England’s largest county — and started connecting a local network of organisations working on digital inclusion. By recruiting and training Digital Champions who can offer one to one support, we are helping residents build the confidence and motivation needed to use technology and the Internet.
Building a community of support
We know that working with local organisations makes the difference in digital inclusion work. So far, we have connected with over 50 organisations, charities and community groups to facilitate sharing of expertise and resources. This also ensures learning from innovative approaches is shared, such as the project trialled by Beyond Housing in Scarborough, where access to free smart speaker devices is helping vulnerable residents connect with others.
Providing vital access to technology
We know that lack of access to devices and data is a barrier for people. There are several organisations, including Reboot North Yorkshire, that are encouraging residents to donate old technology so it can be refurbished and distributed to those in need. Anyone who would like to donate can find out more by visiting the Reboot North Yorkshire website.
I am also working with North Yorkshire County Council on the Reboot project https://rebootny.co.uk/ which your residents may benefit from.
Support with digital skills
Access to devices and data is only part of the solution. It’s essential that people are supported to build confidence, motivation and skills as well to get the most of technology to improve their lives. We’re training Digital Champions in North Yorkshire to provide this support.
So far, over 110 Digital Champions have been recruited that are working within organisations. We call these ‘embedded’ Digital Champions. We also have 10 volunteer Digital Champions who have been providing support remotely, via our free digital support helpline. The patient and friendly DCs have helped people to set up email addresses, access digital services and local history archives, and use Zoom to video call loved ones.
Recently we launched a new free helpline 0808 196 5883 and I wondered if you had anyone in your parish who would benefit from some 1:1 help remotely with digital skills? If they phone the helpline and leave a brief message with details of the help they need, we will assign a friendly volunteer to call them back and assist them. There is no charge for this service. We all recognise how isolating the pandemic has been for many within our society. Accessing our basic needs from ordering groceries, making doctors’ appointments and claiming benefits has all moved online. Being online can also mean chatting with your loved ones and being lifted by the smile of familiar faces. Once online you can also explore your hobbies and open up a whole new world in a safe environment .I have attached a poster you can put up on a noticeboard at the church or give to anyone you think might benefit from our help. I have also attached a printer friendly version in case you want to print it off and give out.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need more information.
Digital Champion Coordinator – North Yorkshire