1,400 digital champions announced

A new initiative to create hundreds of ‘digital champions’ who will help more than 9,500 people develop basic digital skills is being launched following £2 million investment of funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

The test-and-learn initiative aims to recruit more than 1,400 digital champions within disability, youth and support organisations who will engage with people who are not online and provide them with personal long-term support.

Digital Unite, a leading provider of digital skills learning, will lead a consortium comprising Age UK, Citizens Online and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). These diverse organisations will work closely together to provide bespoke training, share and improve practices and develop consistent ways of evaluating success.

The One Digital consortium will benefit people with disabilities and accessibility needs, young adults seeking work, over 65s, and charities and the people they support, so they are able to access essential online services, search and apply for jobs and stay in touch with friends and family. The digital champions will, for example, demonstrate the use of Skype to an older person to help them stay in touch with grandchildren and family, or provide a young person with the skills to search for work and complete an online CV. Four out of five over 65s use computers at least once a week which help to alleviate loneliness and connect people to essential services*.

Digital Unite  receives £749,611 for projects delivered in partnership with housing association Affinity Sutton and charity AbilityNet. They 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 local residents to get online.

Age UK  receives £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. Community work will include pop-up taster sessions in local shops, GP surgeries and hospitals.

The charity Citizens Online  receives £466,981 and will 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. Citizens Online will deliver a project that aims to support the uptake of digital skills and services in each area by creating a sustainable and supportive partnership network.

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.

The One Digital programme will measure the impact and benefits for the digital champions and those they teach so that successful practices and lessons learnt can be shared.

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. 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.”

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.”