THE Langholm Initiative’s digital skills project, which offers support to older people to get online, is being launched.
The project, funded by Ewe Hill 16, Muirhall Energy and Dumfries and Galloway Council, will work with volunteers to help those aged 65 plus in the community build their confidence with technology and the internet.
The project is due to start on Monday, October 12.
Jason Railton, project manager, said: “We’re delighted to be able to launch this project which is so important for people in our area.
“If we’ve learned anything during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that we are leaving people behind as technology becomes more central to our daily lives.”
The poject is based on research undertaken by the Langholm Initiative last year.
Building our Digital Future, the report published by the Initiative, highlighted the need to improve the digital skills of older people as well as young people and businesses.
“One of our key priorities was increasing support to older people which will benefit them in a number of ways,” Jason said.
“But we never imagined we’d be trying to achieve that against the current backdrop.”
The project originally planned to offer in-person, one-to-one sessions with older people.
However, because of increasing restrictions, the sessions will be delivered exclusively over the phone for the foreseeable future.
“Although this isn’t ideal, colleagues in Scotland have told us that delivering this kind of project over the phone can have benefits, not least, increasing people’s confidence in using the technology of their own accord.”
Digital exclusion is a major issue in Scotland, with Dumfries and Galloway highlighted as a key risk area by the Tech Partnership.
Barriers to getting online particularly affect older people, those with disabilities and low-income families.
Research by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Office of National Statistics and Good Things Foundation shows that, although moving online is becoming essential for everyone, confidence and motivation is preventing many people from picking up a tablet or laptop.
Jason said: “Our project will help you explore technology in a safe and supported way.
“Our programme is designed to be informal and fun, working with a volunteer entirely at your own pace and for as long as you need.”
The project also looks at the bigger picture of technology in the region.
By working with a range of partners, the Initiative hopes to connect young people to future career and training opportunities.
Jason added: “Our young people should be supported to see Langholm and southern Scotland as a viable place to work, start a business or in the ‘new normal’, work remotely for larger, distant firms.
“We want to show that’s possible by showcasing the enormous potential of the digital sector down here, breaking down what digital is all about and getting them involved in fun and practical activities when we can.”
The project will also focus on supporting businesses in the wake of the recent crisis.
“We’re excited to embark on a new partnership with agencies, like Skills Development Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council, to help introduce digital and creative media foundation apprenticeships here.
“This week we launched a short survey so we can help to deliver practical support to businesses, based on what they need rather than what is prescribed for them.
“We hope that, in doing so, we can support them to move forward during the crisis.
“We urge all our businesses to fill in the short survey at langholminitiative.org.uk/survey or get in touch for a paper copy.”
If you’re interested in learning more about their programme as a learner, volunteer or business, call Jason at the Initiative on 07843 947 411 or email email@example.com