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Digital inclusion agency Tinder Foundation has funded an innovation project to allow libraries across the UK to teach community members digital skills.
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The funding has been awarded to 16 libraries to run innovative pilots of digital inclusion projects using new approaches.
This initiative is part of a six-month research pilot into ways to teach and support socially excluded members of the population to learn digital skills. It will also allow the libraries to investigate partnerships and new technology to establish support models for members of their communities.
Tinder Foundation chief executive Helen Milner said: “We’re delighted to have been able to award funding to 16 library services, which all demonstrated innovate ideas for engaging with their local communities, reaching new people and having a real impact on closing the digital divide.”
Milner highlighted the work already done by the Tinder Foundation-managed UK online centres network to support people learning digital skills, and hopes this new funding project will help to reach more people and scale the support effort.
The libraries that will receive funding are: Barnet Library; Jubilee Library in Brighton & Hove; Hounslow Library; Coventry Central Library; Workington Library; Chesterfield Library; Doncaster Central Library; Gateshead Central Library; Leeds Central Library; Warrington Library; Newcastle City Library; Nottingham City Library; Northumberland Libraries; Oswestry Library; Portsmouth Central Library; and Somerset Library.
Some of the libraries plan to develop initiatives such as a pop-up digital skills centre that will visit rural communities, services for low-income families to search for jobs through model devices, a tablet-lending scheme, training members of low-income families to be “IT buddies”, and visits to housebound or disabled people.
The pilot will allow the Tinder Foundation network to collect research and case studies about the successes and best practices of the libraries' projects, as well as identify what resources the libraries will need to help progress digital inclusion, in partnership with the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce and Society of Chief Librarians.
A representative from the the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce described the project as "an exciting opportunity" for various libraries to further develop digital access for their communities.
"It is important to help all users to grow in confidence and awareness of the wide range of services that libraries provide,” they said.
In implementing the project, organisations involved hope to address not just the digital skills gap but also cater to the 20% of the population who do not have access to digital by offering them the ability to learn to use technology to apply for jobs and stay connected.