Gravesham’s Digital Inclusion pilot has completed its first phase with fantastic success.
With the support of Gravesham Borough Council, and funding from Kent County Council via the Helping Hands and Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF) funds. The project was managed by Citizens Advice in North and West Kent (CANWK). CANWK have previously delivered various digital skills projects, but while funding ended, demand continued. With the impact of COVID-19 increasing our reliance on digital skills and services, they have sought to further their inclusion projects.
This pilot project was created in partnership with The Grand, a health and wellbeing community centre in Gravesham. The project involved providing free digital skills learning as well as additional services. It aimed at supporting people experiencing digital poverty, digital exclusion, and those from low-income households, as these are three key factors contributing to the digital divide. The project was delivered in local community spaces, predominantly Age UK, The Grand, St. Aidan’s Church and Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, ensuring that a wide range of residents and those most in need could access digital support.
The Grand was responsible for running beginner’s digital skills courses, as well as English Language courses delivered by a trained tutor. CANWK delivered one beginner’s course, along with the intermediate digital skills programme at three locations. Employment support and financial capability support was also provided remotely via telephone or video call.
The pilot ran over 7 months and was in high demand from people wanting to improve their digital skills. 112 people were supported across the entire project, with 60 accessing the beginners digital skills programme and 37 accessing the intermediate.
The project discovered that largely due to lack of confidence, people wanted in-person digital training rather than remote. When doing something for the first time, it can be daunting without someone to provide hands-on support. Local residents also prefer accessing local services, rather than traveling for them. Some learners had attended previous digital skills courses, and shared that having a trainer present, to assist with their learning and deliver training, created a balanced and motivated learning environment.
The pilot was a huge success, and many lessons were learned which will be taken into future projects, such as learners wishing for longer sessions and the need for consistent marketing to ensure maximum exposure. CANWK has successfully secured funding from KCC to roll out a phase two digital inclusion project in Dartford and Swanley, with hopes to roll out a sustainable programme across North and West Kent.
It’s fantastic to hear about the success of this digital inclusion pilot programme.