Digital You is now well into its stride, and I wanted to share some of our achievements so far.
The City of Salford has some of the highest levels of digital exclusion in the UK - 23% of adults lack one or more basic digital skills - correlated with pockets of high social exclusion: poverty, unemployment and disability. Digital You is about reaching out to these people in their communities and helping them engage with digital in ways that can improve their lives.
This is an important programme, both within Greater Manchester and nationally. Salford City Council have recognised the need for innovation and partnership in digital inclusion and should be commended for breaking new ground.
Most local digital inclusion initiatives depend on funding and can find it hard to sustain impact when the funding stops. In contrast, a movement creates its own energy: belief in the cause, commitment to action, and the passion amongst those in the movement to pass on their knowledge and expertise. This can be a more sustainable model - particularly important in a time of continuing pressure on public funding.
The Online Centres Network is a national community movement for social change through digital. But the movement is broader than this. By working with partners across Government and the private sector, we are unlocking additional capacity and resource that helps the Network achieve even more. Our partners are also part of the movement.
This is the model we have brought to Salford, and it is already delivering exciting results. Following an exciting launch in January featuring both Paul Dennett, Mayor of Salford and Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, we have taken Digital You out into the community.
We've been on the ground for three months now - and as well as reaching 312 people so far and helping them take their first step into the digital world, there have been some other notable successes:
- Recruiting over 30 community organisations and libraries in areas of deprivation across the City, in order to create the new Digital You network.
- Working with a range of communities across Salford to engage their residents in digital - for example, the Jewish community in Cheetham Hill working with the Binoh Community Centre and local community leaders.
- Engaging the main housing associations across Salford, with pledges of support to help their residents get online and build basic digital skills.
- Bringing together Google and TalkTalk to provide a bespoke training programme for TalkTalk staff allowing them to volunteer as Digital Champions for Salford.
- Working with CSIN in Victoria Park, Swinton, a community organisation providing help and support for Forces veterans.
- Working with Forest Bank Prison on a forthcoming pilot delivering digital skills training and Digital Champion training for prisoners nearing release.
- Securing pledges of support from a range of private sector partners:
- Lloyds Banking Group - supporting 400 Salford residents over the next two years, by deploying their staff Digital Champions in community venues: the first two Digital Champions have begun their volunteering this week in Eccles Library.
- TalkTalk - members of staff at TalkTalk’s Salford HQ at the Soapworks site will pledge to support Online Centres in Salford.
- Google - bringing the Digital Garage bus to Salford as part of the bus tour in Greater Manchester; and sending Digital Garage trainers to Salford to train community organisations in the Digital You network.
- Barclays - promoting the work of Digital Eagles, active in the community to help Salford residents gain digital skills.
- Capita - Urban Vision will support their employees to gain digital skills and will recruit Digital Champions.
- FutureGov has pledged their time to run three co-design sessions with communities, helping the Digital You network continue to develop as a social movement for change.
- Helping to secure a DL100 nomination for Salford City Council in the Digital Council of the Year category.
These activities show the power of partnership and innovation in building a platform for digital inclusion in a place, and the opportunity to build connections and new activity that are much more than the sum of their parts. In doing so, we aim to lay the foundations for a local movement that stands the test of time.
At a national level, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has established the Digital Skills Partnership to drive action on digital skills through collaboration and sharing expertise and resources, and the Digital You programme exemplifies those principles.
I’m proud of what has been achieved so far through Digital You, and it’s been a pleasure to work with Salford City Council, brilliant private sector partners and a range of amazing community organisations. But there is still much more to do - and we will be continuing to work hard to ensure that Digital You is a positive force for digital social change in Salford, not only now, but into the future.