Two years of digital skills support invaluable for Stockport in lockdown

Good Things Foundation have released a report on the first two years of ‘DigiKnow’ digital inclusion work in Stockport

Two years of digital skills support invaluable for Stockport in lockdown

In April 2018 Stockport Council established a ‘DigiKnow’ alliance to help digitally excluded residents to gain digital skills and confidence. The programme was led by Good Things Foundation, the UK’s leading digital inclusion delivery organisation, who have released a report on the first two years of DigiKnow work. The DigiKnow network is fully established now and continues to support digitally excluded residents. The foundations laid over the past two years have proved invaluable in our ability to respond quickly during the lockdown.

The DigiKnow approach is to deliver digital support and skills through established and trusted community groups and organisations who already provide social support. The original aim was to recruit 30 network partners and to help at least 5,000 residents. These targets have been exceeded, with 35 organisations recruited and 8,425 people supported during the first two years of DigiKnow delivery.

Councillor Kate Butler, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focus and Engagement says: “We recognised from the outset that those who are digitally excluded are often also socially excluded, so by building digital skills in community settings that are already trusted by these residents, there is more chance they will be open to new learning and skills. Thanks to our libraries, community groups and Digital Champions almost 8,500 more residents can now use digital to stay connected and make the most of all the information and services available online.”

When the pandemic forced lockdown and residents had to stay at home, the face-to-face model had to change, but the network was already in place. We retrained our Digital Champions to offer support via phone and Zoom and community sessions were quickly replaced with online group sessions.

Councillor Butler continues: “During lockdown we have seen more motivation to get online, as people who weren’t interested before now view being online as essential rather than optional. Whether to complete school work, order shopping online, find out information or keep up with family, digital is the answer every time and we are doing all we can to help people access the internet and ensure no-one gets left behind.”

The Good Things Foundation report concludes that the DigiKnow digital inclusion initiative is unique in the UK, due to its alliance of local stakeholders and the coordination of local activity. This collaboration has enabled us to listen closely to our end users’ needs during the pandemic, to adapt the digital inclusion activity to the changing public health situation and sustain the support when it is most needed.

Good Things Foundation’s involvement in the network has now come to an end, but the network is continuing to move from strength to strength. The council is working with Starting Point, a local DigiKnow network member, to expand the network further, recruit and train more Digital Champions, and reach new groups of residents who don’t have digital skills but would like to learn. Residents who may be prevented from going online by the cost of access will soon be able to borrow a device from Stockport’s first digital device lending library.