Council drafts in digital inclusion charity

Citizens Online will work across Dorset identifying digital exclusion hot spots and deploying digital champions to help residents.

Joe Lepper | 18th Oct 18

Dorset County Council has drafted in digital inclusion charity Citizens Online to help improve the online and tech skills of its residents.

Latest figures show that around 150,000 residents in Dorset lack at least one  key digital skill: communicating, accessing content, transacting, problem solving and being safe online.

To tackle digital exclusion in Dorset Citizens Online is to roll out its Switch approach. This involves pinpointing where digitally excluded people live, analysing local digital inclusion schemes already in operation, identifying gaps in provision and assessing organisations ability to promote digital inclusion.

This also involves a digital champions programme, which involves volunteers supporting residents with poor digital skills.

Switch is part funded by the Big Lottery Fund and is part of the One Digital programme.

The work compliments existing work to improve digital take up in the county through the Routes to Inclusion scheme, which includes partners such as NHS England, Dorset job centres and Aster Synergy Housing.

Helping residents to be digitally connected

Councillor Andrew Parry, Dorset County Council’s Cabinet Member For Skills, said: “The Routes to Inclusion programme has already achieved much; now we want to reach even more of our residents and enable them to get the best from the digital connectivity that is now available across Dorset.

“We are a forward-thinking county and we know people need help to embrace digital technology so they can benefit financially and socially, and access our public services better.”

John Fisher, Chief Executive of Citizens Online, added: “We have been impressed with the progress and successes that the Routes to Inclusion Group has already achieved on this difficult issue of supporting digital skills. We’re delighted to be working with the group. We want to change the way local service providers and funders perceive the issue of digital inclusion – from being a ‘bolt on activity’ to a way of working that is part of business as usual.”