The global situation this year has made it glaringly obvious, to both businesses and individuals, that it’s more important than ever to be able to use the internet. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay in touch with friends and family, apply for jobs and even get a repeat prescription from your GP, if you don’t have access to the internet.
The digital divide is the gap between those able to benefit from the internet and those who are not. It is in more obvious now than it was 12 months ago, 1 in 10 households in the UK don’t have access to the internet and 11.3 million people lack the skills needed to use the internet effectively even if they did have access. Those likely to be excluded are; members of the older generation, lower income households and people with disabilities.
There are a lot of factors that work together to create the digital divide, most of these, such as; lack of skills or confidence and fear, are easy to tackle in order for us to start bridging the gap. This is what our Digital Inclusion Programme’s main aim is, to help local residents gain the skills needed to effectively use the internet.
The Digital Inclusion Programme has funded a smart device (either a tablet or a phone) for over 60 members of the local community to enable them to stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic as well as helping people develop their digital skills. We have also teamed up with a local teacher to provide tutoring and support to 12 students who missed school due to the pandemic.
Mrs B, who had no previous experience with using the internet or smart devices, was happy to receive a tablet and participate in some courses to help her use it. Her grandchildren have been keen to help her so that she can use the tablet to call her family over Zoom. Mrs B has also discovered Youtube! We spoke to her to see how she was getting on and she said “I enjoy using this so much, especially Youtube. So much so that I don’t even use my TV anymore!”
Mrs K also received a tablet in early September and it has already had a significant impact on her understanding and skills for using technology. Her grandson told us that it has specifically helped her use a video calling platform to call extended family and friends that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to speak to. Mrs K has also started using Youtube to watch videos that help with her health and wellbeing.
Based on Government guidelines for essential digital skills, there are around 9 million people in the UK that cannot use the internet competently, which means they will struggle with or more of the following:
- Communicating – via social media, e-mail and video calling platforms
- Transacting – registering for services, buying, selling and applying for anything
- Problem solving – how many times a week so those of us online use Google to learn and help us solve problems.
- Being safe online – without knowledge we can’t make informed decisions or protect ourselves.
Good Things Foundation is a social change charity that have designed ‘Learn My Way’. Learn My Way is a website containing 32 free online courses to help people make the most of the internet. They have courses on very basic things like, using a mouse and using e-mail, as well as subjects to help with work like, creating a spreadsheet. The website has whole sections on online safety, job hunting, using GP services online and banking.
Once you or the person you are helping has completed the courses available on Learn My Way, there are some more advanced courses on Make it Click. These courses are more specific, they offer resources on building a business, online security, and working from home.