Why does Digital Inclusion matter?
Across Stockport, many adults still lack the basic digital skills they need to participate in today’s world. 28% of Stockport’s population make only limited use of the internet, and a further 13% don’t go online at all.
People who are offline are missing out on all the benefits the internet can provide, from helping them to find work, to saving money and keeping in touch with friends and family. And as more and more services are moving to online only, there is a risk that some people are being left behind and becoming excluded.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought this to a head. As residents were locked down, those without access to the internet were excluded from employment, education, online services and online support from family, friends and their communities. The need for digital has become more apparent than ever.
The three main barriers to getting online are the lack of motivation, lack of skills and confidence and the cost of equipment to access the internet.
Motivation has been the most significant barrier with the greatest apathy towards digital being within our older population. More than half of non-users say they don’t go online because ‘they don’t see the need’ or because ‘being online is not for people like them’. During lockdown we have seen an upsurge in motivation to get online, as people who weren’t interested before needed digital to shield, complete school work, order shopping online, find out information or keep up with family. But it remains a barrier for some.
With this new surge in awareness of digital benefits came a new surge in demand for kit and connectivity. 15% of non-users of the internet cite cost as the main reason they are not online. Whilst our Stockport libraries have free Wi-Fi and free-to-use devices for residents to access the internet, actually getting to the library can be a challenge for some people. And during the COVID-19 pandemic libraries had to be closed and some residents lost their only access to the internet.
Digital inclusion is a necessity. People need access to devices, connectivity and digital skills
In March 2018 Stockport Council established a Digital Inclusion Alliance to help digitally excluded residents to gain digital skills and confidence. We are an alliance of partners from all sectors who bring different expertise and resources to help shape, support and promote the ‘DigiKnow’ movement in Stockport.
Our aim is to give people the digital skills, confidence and access they need to use the internet in ways that help them to achieve positive outcomes for work, health and life.
Trusted faces in local places
The people most likely to be digitally excluded are typically those less likely to engage with adult learning due to specific barriers such as financial difficulties, health and disability issues, language barriers or social isolation.
The DigiKnow approach is to deliver digital skills support through established and trusted community groups and organisations who already provide social support. This way there is more chance of helping these hard to reach groups.
Community groups offering digital skills support can be found on the Stockport Local online directory or call the DigiKnow Helpline 07537 127095.
The programme was initially led by Good Things Foundation, the UK’s leading digital inclusion delivery organisation, who have released a report on the first two years of DigiKnow work.
In March 2020 we were awarded £50,000 from the ‘Get Greater Manchester Digital’ Fund. In keeping with our ethos of creating a sustainable movement we are using these funds to extend our community network further and Starting Point Community Learning Partnership are managing this outreach.
The foundations laid over the past two years proved invaluable in our ability to respond quickly during the pandemic lockdown. When face-to-face sessions were no longer possible, community groups had to find new ways to reach learners. We set up a DigiKnow Helpline open to individuals and also voluntary sector organisations who need help in reaching their clients remotely. Our Digital Champions were trained to provide telephone and video support to help residents both individually and via Zoom group sessions.
While libraries and places with public Wi-Fi were closed, many residents lost access to the internet, so we provided devices and data to hundreds of Stockport residents, through a combination of projects supported by the Department for Education, the DevicesDotNow scheme, 02 and Stockport Council funds.
This culminated with Stockport Local Fund awarding almost £10,000 to Starting Point to set up a digital device lending library. We hope to sustain this lending service beyond the pandemic as it is a valuable addition to our digital inclusion movement.
To refer someone in need of a device please use the referral form or residents can call the Helpline themselves on 07537 127095.
Join the movement
We are always looking for more partners to join our Digital Inclusion Alliance and ensure the programme has the biggest impact it can, both now and in the future. Any individual, business, organisation or group who wants to help to tackle digital exclusion in Stockport can join. View the Alliance partners.
We need more:
Our Digital Champions support people to get online and to use the internet. You only need basic digital skills as there’s training to teach you ways to support learners.
It’s rewarding work says Paddy pictured above: “You get a kick out of teaching them and they get a kick out of learning. It works both ways.” Read more of his story.
If you could spare some time to help people, please call our DigiKnow Helpline on 07537 127095.
Community groups and organisations
Building a network of community based support centres is the key goal of this movement. We want to recruit as many community groups as possible including:
- social/interest groups – could you build digital support into your regular activities?
- groups set up to offer aid or help to people in crisis – could you build digital skills support into your regular mission and reduce repeat visits?
- groups who have been set up to provide digital skills support, however informal
If you would like to join the partner network please email Starting Point or call the DigiKnow Helpline on 07537 127095.
Data and devices
Our Digital Lending Library needs a continuous funding stream as devices will need replacing over time and data is perishable. If your business could donate devices or data, or if you could provide specialist volunteers for software/hardware/data removal support, please email Starting Point or call the DigiKnow Helpline on 07537 127095.