Digital Unite, a digital skills training and development organisation, has claimed it is now supporting around 600 “Digital Champions.”
The Champions are being trained by the organisation to give them the skills required to help the public get and stay online.
According to Digital Unite, research shows that those with low levels of digital literacy are more comfortable learning new skills in an informal environment by watching and asking others.
In March 2013, the organisation’s first Digital Champion model for housing was launched – Affinity Sutton, intended to develop a team of people to help residents in the area get online.
Around 150 Digital Champions are now helping around 1000 Affinity Sutton residents learn skills enabling them to use computers, tablets and the Internet.
“I was already helping some of the residents to use computers and the Internet but it’s been great to become an official Digital Champion and improve my own digital and teaching skills,” claimed Elizabeth, a Digital Champion for Affinity Sutton.
“Helping others to learn and use the Internet for their own benefit is enormously satisfying and gives me a real boost,” she added.
In September 2013, the Digital Champions Network for Housing was launched for other housing providers and national and regional organisations.
There are around 450 Champions already registered in this scheme on top of Affinity Sutton’s 150 operating across 18 regions in the UK.
“To be online residents need and want regular, one-to-one support. For many housing providers and other organisations providing this at the scale required can be simply unaffordable,” claimed Kathy Valdes, business development manager at Digital Unite.
“However, if you can develop the skills of enthusiastic volunteers and if you can guide them and encourage collaboration among them, then providing that hyper-local and on-going help for residents starts to become a reality,” she added.
The Digital Unite support for Digital Champions involves an online training platform that provides comprehensive and practical support to staff, volunteers and residents who are already digitally active and wish to help others.
The platform houses seven structured, self-study e-learning courses targeted at inspiring residents to get and stay online.
There is also a Digital Champion Community Forum for daily support, sharing access to downloadable resources and online guides.
In April, the government announced its new Digital Inclusion Strategy, a plan to reduce the number of people offline by 25% by 2016.
However, there are those who think more is needed – Newcastle City Council has called upon the Government Digital Service (GDS) to rethink the way it approaches the digital skills gap, while many believe that local authorities have a large part to play.
Meanwhile, one report said that huge investments were needed to tackle the problem of digital exclusion, claiming it would cost £875m to bring 89% of UK citizens online by 2020.