People and processesDigital SkillsEpping Forest District Council drives digital inclusion

Epping Forest District Council drives digital inclusion

Epping Forest District Council has announced a partnership with digital inclusion charity Citizens Online to fight digital exclusion

Epping Forest District Council and charity Citizens Online are working together to strengthen digital inclusion.

Around 21,000 of Epping Forest residents lack essential digital skills. To combat this the council has teamed up with Citizens Online to support residents lacking digital skills. Citizens Online is helping to increase skills provision with a digital inclusion network – and is inviting any organisation interested in helping to reduce digital exclusion to join. Citizens Online has worked in over 50 communities across the UK since 2000.

Any organisation that would like to be involved should attend the Interactive Workshop that takes place on Thursday 30 May, 10.30am – 12.30pm at the Civic Offices in Epping.

Rob Pavey, Epping Forest District Council Service Director for Customer Services, said: “We are a forward looking Council and we know people need help to embrace digital technology so they can benefit financially and socially, and access our public services better. We want to work in partnership with other local organisations to ensure we reach as many of our residents who need help as possible.”

John Fisher, Chief Executive of Citizens Online, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Epping Forest District Council. 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.”

Missing out on benefits due to digital exclusion

According to the UK Consumer Digital Index 2018, people who lack digital skills can’t always access the services they need. They also miss out on the many benefits that digital can bring, such as feeling less alone, finding work, saving money and improving health. The report by Lloyds Bank benchmarks the digital and financial capability of people in the UK.

The report estimates that eight percent of the UK population continue to lack basic digital skills. Having essential digital skills means being able to participate safely and effectively online.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said:  I want everyone to make the most of digital technology; the Consumer Digital Index is critical to understanding not only the scale of the work to do, but also in informing how we can deliver targeted programmes.”

Estimates for the proportion and number of people who are digitally excluded in the UK vary. The ONS’ annual survey of Internet Users estimated in 2017 that 11.1% of UK Adults had either never used the internet or last used it over 3 months ago. That’s 5.8 million people.

Switch approach

Citizens Online is rolling out the Switch approach to understand digital inclusion in Epping Forest better and make sure sufficient support is available to those who need it.

New partnership for Epping Forest District Council for digital inclusion

The vision is to embed Digital Champions within many organisations throughout the district to help people with digital skills. Switch is funded by Epping Forest District Council and The National Lottery Community Fund as part of the One Digital programme.

Citizens Online had a similar partnership with Surrey County Council in March where it rolled out its award-winning switch approach. The approach involves pinpointing where digitally excluded people live, analysing local digital inclusion schemes already operating, identifying gaps in provision and getting organisations – whether they are public services, voluntary groups or businesses – involved.

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