Council brings in charity to tackle digital exclusion

Citizens Online’s work with Surrey County Council includes pinpointing where digitally excluded people live, how they can be best supported and gaps in provision.

Joe Lepper | 22nd Mar 19
Image of elderly hands a keyboard representing digital inclusion for old people

A digital inclusion charity has been drafted in by a council after it emerged around 133,000 people in its area are unable to complete basic tasks online.

Surrey County Council has asked Citizens Online to roll out its Big Lottery Funded ‘Switch’ approach in the county. This pinpoints where digitally excluded people live, analyses local digital inclusion schemes and identifies gaps in provision.

The council and Citizens Online will then build a network of volunteer digital champions across Surrey to help residents who have poor digital skills.

The latest Office for National Statistics data found that 133,000 people in Surrey are unable to communicate, access content, complete a transaction, solve a problem or remain safe online.

Switch is part of the One Digital progamme developed with organisations including Age Concern and Clarion Futures.

“We have been impressed with Surrey County Council’s commitment to evidence and work towards a joined-up solution to this difficult issue of supporting digital skills,” said Citizens Online Chief Executive John Fisher.

“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.”

Helping people of all ages

Charlotte Morley, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for digital inclusion, added: “Digital inclusion isn’t just about whether people can access the internet, it’s also about their ability to use it.

“This partnership is all about improving the digital skills of people of all ages so everyone can enjoy the benefits of modern technology, whether that’s enjoying Skype to stay in touch with families, booking appointments or using services – including the county council’s – at any time.”

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