LIFE without the internet is an everyday reality for around 100,000 people across Dorset who have never been online.
In a bid to change that, the Superfast Dorset team is looking for volunteers in the Bridport area to become Digital Champions who will help others discover and enjoy all the benefits of being connected.
Bridport, Charmouth and Chideock will be the first communities to benefit from Superfast Dorset’s rollout of superfast broadband.
On April 24 Wendy Maggs, Digital Champion project officer for Superfast Dorset, will be at The George Hotel, Bridport from 5.30pm to talk to people interested in becoming digital champions.
Wendy, a tutor who lives in Bridport, got involved with promoting digital inclusion in Dorset after seeing a need amongst several of her pupils.
She said many are not confident with basic computer.
“Most of us take getting online for granted. Skills like navigating the web, or even turning on a computer, make some people very nervous. Empowering people to take their first steps on the internet and realise how useful it is can change lives.”
Digital champions can show people how to explore their hobbies, learn about online banking, fill out online forms for health services or job applications.
“But being a digital champion doesn’t mean being an expert,” she said. “Some of our champions are people who once came to us for help getting online, and now are able to share their skills with others.
“Digital champions are normal people who are willing to volunteer to help show local people that being online can be fun, safe, and easy.”
Volunteers go through a short induction process and are given guidance on how to coach people in informal settings like day centres and libraries.
Superfast Dorset’s Digital Champions project is part of a national effort to bridge the digital divide. And as technologies advance and more public and private services move online, being connected is essential.
“We are looking to help those who are socially excluded, too.
“Basic online skills can help people stay connected with family and friends, cheaply and easily.”
While digital inclusion isn’t aimed specifically at older people, figures suggest half the national offline population is over 65. With nearly a third of Bridport’s residents over 65, there is a fair amount of people in the area who could benefit from the help of a digital champion.
“Life can be quite hard for people who might be excluded or isolated due to their age or background. And they’re often the ones who really could benefit most from being online.”
To get a place at the event email Wendy Maggs at w.maggs @poole.gov.uk or call 01202 262300.