Brighton & Hove is one of four local authorities chosen to be part of a new project led by national organisations to help reduce the number of people without basic digital skills.
The new One Digital initiative looks at ways of encouraging people to find out about what is available so they can see the benefits of accessing essential online services, searching and applying for jobs and staying in touch with friends and family.
The lead partnership organisation for the initiative in Brighton & Hove is Citizens Online, a national charity set up to tackle the issues of digital exclusion and help individuals and communities understand and gain the benefits of being online.
Working with funding partner BT and representatives from Brighton & Hove City Council, Citizens Online will be training, recruiting and co-ordinating local “digital champions”. The project will form what is being called a “Digital Resilience Partnership” in the city, linking those with the ability to assist learning with those in need of support. Currently at the early stages of development, the partnership is due to begin offering support activities by the end of the year.
Cllr Emma Daniel, lead councillor for Communities, Neighbourhoods and Equalities, said: “This is a practical and supportive way to help reduce inequalities across the city. By identifying people and communities where fewer residents have access to the Internet, we can make sure the help offered is relevant so there is a better chance of long term success. This is not just for first time users but can also help those with very little knowledge who need to gain confidence to make the most of being online. It is important to remember for all those people with mobile devices and constant connectivity to the Internet, there are others cut off from the benefits of modern technology and we need help everyone to have equal access.”
Figures show 10.5 million people in the UK lack the skills to access many key online services. This includes 49 per cent of disabled people and 42 per cent of people with a household income of less than £12,500 a year who do not use the Internet.
One Digital is organised by a range of partners – Digital Unite, Age UK, Citizens Online and SVCO – each of whom will run varied projects to try to reach out to all the different groups of people who are experiencing digital exclusion.
With £2 million from the Big Lottery Fund, One Digital aims to recruit more than 1,400 digital champions nationally within disability, youth and support organisations. The champions will be trained on how to engage with people who are not online and provide personal long-term support as they gain new skills.