Digital champions will help older people, the disabled and unemployed people who are not skilled at using the internet
A major £2 million funding programme is to train up people across the UK to help others to access the internet.
The Big Lottery Fund digital champions programme aims specifically to help older people, those with disabilities, the unemployed and service users of small charities.
It will train up local digital champions of all ages to help others learn to do things online that many of us take for granted. Skills such as using of Skype will help older people to stay in touch with grandchildren and family, while knowledge of word processing and job searching can help a young person find work.
The programme will see funds plowed into four major voluntary organisations: Age UK, Citizens Online, Digital Unite and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), who are all working together as the One Digital consortium.
Emma Weston, programme director of One Digital and chief executive of Digital Unite, said: “One of the most exciting aspects of One Digital is the unique level of collaboration between diverse and distinct organisations to achieve one common goal.
This funding will help local people share their digital skills with others in their community so they can access services and opportunities to connect with people online
“We have come together to share, learn and improve our practices and to collectively better recruit, train and empower an army of effective digital champions who can in turn engage and empower learners right across our communities.
“Our vision is to create a truly sustainable, scalable and also very flexible digital skills solution while developing coherent and consistent ways of measuring impact and evaluating success. Together, we hope that One Digital will show that creative, collective approaches to the digital skills deficit can build digital capacity in an exciting, emboldened way and at pace and scale.”
Digital Unite is receiving the biggest proportion of the cash, £749,611, for projects delivered in partnership with housing association Affinity Sutton and charity AbilityNet. It will train, develop and expand a network of volunteers who will provide free digital skills to 1,000 disabled people in their own homes and encourage young people to become digital champions, gain the skills needed to get jobs and support people to get online.
Age UK is to receive £326,136 for a project using digital champions to support at least 2,000 older people in Oxfordshire, Leicestershire and Rutland to develop their digital skills. Local Age UKs will work with local organisations and businesses including health and social services, care homes, clubs, hairdressers and taxi drivers.
Citizens Online receives £466,981 to work in four local authority areas – Brighton, Plymouth, Gwynedd and Highlands Council – to train, recruit and deploy digital champions to improve the online skills of 4,000 people.
And SCVO receives £528,219 to develop and assess the contribution that existing frontline third sector organisations can make. It will improve the skills of up to 2,000 people, develop digital champions and improve the online skills of 250 voluntary and community sector organisations.
Dawn Austwick, Big Lottery Fund chief executive, said: “We are becoming increasingly driven by digital technology. This funding will help local people share their digital skills with others in their community so they can access services and opportunities to connect with people online. New approaches, evidence gathered and lessons learnt will enable more people to gain the digital skills to improve their quality of life.”