Digital Inclusion – Citizens Online and NYCC

Citizens Online has been working in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council, and all seven district councils in the county, including Stronger Communities, Central Libraries and Living Well, to support as many people as possible with digital skills and access to technology. We have conducted research to find out where people in need are in North Yorkshire — England’s largest county — and started connecting a local network of organisations working on digital inclusion. By recruiting and training Digital Champions who can offer one to one support, we are helping residents build the confidence and motivation needed to use technology and the Internet.

Building a community of support

We know that working with local organisations makes the difference in digital inclusion work. So far, we have connected with over 65 organisations, charities and community groups to facilitate sharing of expertise and resources.

We know that lack of access to devices and data is a barrier for people. There are several organisations, including Reboot North Yorkshire, that are encouraging residents to donate old technology so it can be refurbished and distributed to those in need. I have already started to distribute some devices out to some Voluntary Organisations as part of the Reboot scheme,

Support with digital skills

Access to devices and data is only part of the solution. It’s essential that people are supported to build confidence, motivation and skills as well to get the most of technology to improve their lives. We’re training Digital Champions in North Yorkshire to provide this support, of which you are all are either as an Embedded Digital Champion or Volunteer via the organisation whom you volunteer for.

So far, over 120 Digital Champions have been recruited and trained since the end of last year. In this number are 10 direct North Yorkshire Digital Champions for Citizens Online who have been providing support remotely, via our free digital support helpline ( launched in January). The patient and friendly DCs have helped people to set up email addresses, access digital services and local history archives, and use Zoom to video call loved ones.

Invites have been going out every couple of weeks inviting all Digital Champions to the regular Share and Learn sessions which I have been running.

Currently we have 30 tablets out across North Yorkshire on a Tablet loan scheme to individuals whom are Digitally Excluded.

What’s next

We want to hear from more organisations who are already supporting, or are interested in supporting, their clients to do more online. We want to grow the Network and create a simple referral system across the county, making it easy for residents to know where to get digital help and for organisations to know where to signpost support.

In the meantime any North Yorkshire residents who need help to get started using technology or building confidence to do more online can call our free digital support helpline on 0808 196 5883.