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Big Lottery Fund gives £2m to digital champion project

Non-profit organisation The Big Lottery Fund gives £2m to a project creating digital champions to help people without digital skills use the internet

The Big Lottery Fund has given £2m to a group of organisations who will lead a digital skills project where selected champions will train people without digital skills.

The not-for-profit organisation – which awards sums of money to community projects across the UK – will hand over the money to skills and learning provider Digital Unite to lead a consortium of businesses in providing skills to those who  are not digitally enabled.

Age UK, Citizens Online and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) will take part in the initiative. Some 1,400 digital champions will teach more than 9,500 people basic digital skills.

Together they will develop and consistent ways of measuring the success of the scheme, how to train and how to improve practices.

“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,” said Emma Weston, programme director of One Digital and Chief Executive of Digital Unite.

“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.”

The digital champions will be selected for the test-and-learn initiative from disability, youth and support organisations, to provide long-term support for those who are not yet online.

The aim is for this One Digital consortium to help individuals who are not digitally enabled such as those with disabilities, accessibility needs, over-65s, charities and young adults who are looking for work.

It aims to give this group access to online services such as job searches or social media for staying in touch with others – for example through digital champions teaching an over-65 to use Skype to chat with family.

Volunteer network

Age UK will receive £326,136 of the grant to develop a project using digital champions to support 2,000 older people in locations across the UK to develop pop-up taster sessions and work with local organisations and businesses.

Digital Unite will be given £749,611 and will work with Affinity Sutton and charity AbilityNet to train and build a network of volunteers who can provide digital skills to 1,000 disabled citizens in their homes.

Citizens online, a charity for digital inclusion, will receive £466,981 to work with local authorities to develop digital champions who will help 4,000 gain online skills and create a partnership network between Brighton, Plymouth, Gwynedd and Highlands Council to sustain digital skills in these areas.

The SCVO will have £528,219 of the fund for improvement of online skills in 250 voluntary and community sector organisations as well as helping 2,000 people improve their digital abilities.

It is estimated that 10.5 million people in the UK are still not online, despite technology and digital skills becoming increasingly important in everyday life.

“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,” said Dawn Austwick, Big Lottery Fund chief executive.

“New approaches, evidence gathered and lessons learnt will enable more people to gain the digital skills to improve their quality of life.”

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