A Digitally Inclusive CouncilHelping our residents to become digitally included is a priority for the Council.
We are investing in digital technologies for those residents and service-users who are able to self-serve, so that we can focus our reduced resources on those who most need our help. But the focus at Stockport is not just about residents accessing council services – digital permeates everything. We need it for our jobs, to pay bills, stay in touch and increasingly to live a full and healthy life. Helping our residents to become digitally included is a priority for our council – to ensure no one’s left behind.
All Stockport libraries and our Council Reception have free Wi-Fi and free-to-use devices for residents to access the internet, as well as staff who can help them get started. To support this we have started introducing new technology Open+ into libraries which will allow members of the public to continue to use the library long after standard opening hours. We have good community digital infrastructures in our schools, leisure centres, children’s centres and other community buildings.
A key pillar of our digital transformation programme is Digital Inclusion. We know that those who are digitally excluded are often also socially excluded and if we tackle this right, we will go some way to addressing social exclusion. Across Stockport, it is estimated that 50,000 adults lack the basic digital skills they need to participate in today’s world.
Supporting those citizens who could go online but who aren’t, either through lack of equipment, skills, confidence or motivation, (the 2nd tier in the diagram below) ensures they have access to opportunities, information and support to be more independent and develop their resilience. These citizens could access digital services for themselves if they were supported to develop their digital skills or given access to the technology and our aim is to move as many as possible into the top tier.
Stockport’s Digital Inclusion Alliance
Stockport Council has taken an innovative and unique approach to tackling this issue by getting together with key partners and forming a Digital Inclusion Alliance. This collaboration, which includes the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation and local organisations Starting Point Community Partnership, Stockport Homes and The Prevention Alliance (TPA), aims to create a network of digital support centres across Stockport, making it as easy as possible for residents to find help in their local community.
Through the Alliance we have committed to helping 5,000 residents to get online and develop their digital confidence by 2020.
We aim to build a sustainable ‘movement’ for digital inclusion across Stockport by delivering digital support and skills through established and trusted community groups and organisations who are already providing social support. We know that the people who are digitally excluded face a range of practical and psychological barriers to getting online, and many are likely to have had a bad experience of formal education. The trust these organisations have already built by helping these residents means they will be more open to new learning and we hope to use these opportunities to great effect to deliver digital support.
By empowering communities to drive the movement, long-term sustainability beyond the end of our programme in 2020 is likely.
We are creating a Partner Network of these community groups and organisations who can oﬀer digital inclusion support to residents. We’ve signed up libraries, charities, men’s sheds groups, church-based community groups and volunteer health champions amongst others. We can help with applying for grants for equipment, services or other relevant items or activities.
We offer monthly training sessions to those wanting to offer support in their community. Train the trainer sessions include barriers to engagement, learning styles, communication skills and various support routes for people who attend digital skills sessions. We also look at what it means to be a Digital Champion and helping to tackle loneliness and isolation as well as digital exclusion.
If you would like to volunteer as an individual to help people in your community to get online, sign up for our ‘DigiKnow Digital Champion Weekly Update’ to receive details of upcoming volunteer training sessions and hints and tips on helping people to develop digital skills.
If you are a community group or organisation who provides digital skills support, or who would like to start doing so and who would like to join the partner network visit our Online Centres webpage or get in touch on 0161 494 9947.
We are also building strategic partnerships with organisations such as colleges and Job Centre Plus who can advocate the importance of digital skills and spread the word about the network of community partners oﬀering support to residents. If your organisation can raise awareness of basic digital skills or provide resources or volunteers, get in touch with Good Things Foundation.
We recognised that if we joined up community digital inclusion activity it will be a lot easier for residents to see where support is available. We have created promotional materials around the shared ‘DigiKnow’ brand which is being used by the network of community digital support centres and organisations to signpost where digital help is available and encourage more group to join.
Growing digital skills
Getting more residents confident with a basic level of digital skills is ambitious, but just the start. For Stockport to flourish and its people to prosper we need a tech-enabled workforce who can respond to the changes resulting from internet era advances and expectation. The Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA) is a great next step for those who are keen to learn more and an easily accessible free way to get people excited about digital skills for life and work.
As one of the Pioneer adopters, we are committed to providing opportunities for those who want to take the next step and are keen to learn more and we are promoting the scheme to residents of all ages looking to improve digital skills as well as our staff, Councillors, schools, colleges, Job Centre Plus, partners, community groups and Stockport businesses looking to recruit. If you would like to learn more about becoming an iDEA Award learning organiser please get in touch.