Councillor Malcolm Allan is Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources at Stockport Council
I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks seeing the sort of things the council and community groups together are doing in Stockport, as far as what we call ‘digital’ is concerned.
Although the pace of change in life has been incredibly fast, I also feel quite old when I’m able to say I remember the day when emails were first brought into my workplace. I’m not ashamed to admit that I kept a printed backup copy of every email I sent for the first two weeks. It took me that amount of time to lose my fear and get confidence in the system. I shredded the file after two weeks, but it was quite a thick one by then!
This means I fully understand the anxiety and fear people have when they’re introduced to computers or laptops, or even smartphones today.
I was really impressed with seeing the DigiKnow programme in action. I visited Starting Point’s community venture in Woodley precinct. It was clear all the people in a teaching session were getting a huge benefit from direct training in a nicely informal environment where there is mutual support. People also made some new friends whilst having a lovely cup of coffee.
A week before that, I’d watched as £50 laptops flew off the shelves in Community Computers, part of Renewal Northwest, another community venture in Shaw Heath. This is an amazing place that has a workshop upstairs where laptops are either refurbished or, if they can’t be brought into good use, recycled. This means the precious metals are sent away for recovery, making a huge contribution to the environment and stopping the massive waste that we know happens with much of our information technology.
People were getting the laptops to use for all sorts of interesting personal projects or just to get online. I would encourage you to donate any unused devices to Community Computers if you have them around the house. You can drop them off at your local Stockport library or find out more on the Community Computers website.
It’s not as scary as you think
I guess the overriding feeling from this is that people are working very hard to make sure computers and data are a tool to help us with our lives, rather than us being dominated or cowed by the dizzying array of equipment and software that’s available. All of us only need to know what we need to know. We can leave all the other stuff to those people who have the expertise or the enthusiasm to delve further.
What we all must do, though, is just have the confidence to give it a try. It reminds me of when I was about seven years old and had to get on a bike without stabilisers, even though I thought I’d fall off. I didn’t, and my treasured new little bike took me all over my local area to new places and new adventures.