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Get connected for Get Online Week 2023

Wiltshire Council is taking part in the annual national campaign to enable digitally excluded people to learn the essential skills needed to get online safely, confidently, and affordably.

Published 12 October 2023
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The Good Things Foundation identified that, in the UK, nearly one in five adults lack the most basic digital skills needed for everyday life, over one in 20 households have no internet access (neither fixed line or mobile) and two million households struggle with affordability of internet access. Get Online Week, taking place from 16 to 22 October, is a week-long celebration of digital inclusion aimed at fixing the digital divide, giving access to devices, data and digital skills training.

Throughout the year, council libraries offer free access to Wi-Fi, computers and scanners, as well as printing for a small fee.  Free 'Tech made simple' digital support appointments are also offered in larger libraries, aimed at helping people to gain confidence using the library computers and their own devices.

During Get Online Week, library staff are offering extra 'Keep in touch' sessions. Attendees will be shown the basics of using email and WhatsApp to help them stay in touch with friends and family safely online. Other attendees confirmed for this event include Bobby Van Online Safety, Rethink and Wiltshire Digital Drive.

On Monday 16 October, staff at Warminster and Mere libraries, as well as the Warminster Area Health and Wellbeing Forum, will be available to signpost people to the help and support on offer to acquire and use technology.

For those already online and wanting to try something new, there are a range of free online services, such as Ancestry and eBooks, eAudiobooks and eMagazines, which can be accessed by library members.

A series of digital inclusion support sessions for older people living in and around Wilton, Tisbury and Mere, have been funded and led by the council's South West Wiltshire Area Board to support residents with engaging online. The sessions are delivered in partnership with AbilityNet (opens new window) technology and disability charity to provide local residents with the confidence, knowledge and skills to use technology themselves, including support with emails, online grocery shopping, prescriptions, booking train tickets and much more.

Twelve local residents are currently taking part in the free five-week course at the Nadder Centre, Tisbury, with a waiting list due to their popularity. Additional sessions are being co-ordinated in the Wilton area starting on 25 October for a further five weeks.  Anyone interested in attending these sessions can contact (opens new window).

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: People who experience digital exclusion can feel like they are disconnected and being left behind. They may be unable to connect with friends and family members, miss job and training opportunities or lose access to services that are being moved online.

We aim to have vibrant, well-connected communities by providing reliable and useful technology, whilst also equipping residents with the skills to make use of it. The sessions that are being run across the county through our library services and with AbilityNet, plus pilot schemes such as the one at Dairy View, will hopefully support some of our residents to obtain the confidence and skills to access technology themselves, and hopefully reducing the digital divide.

I encourage anyone who lacks confidence with technology or does not have access to the internet, to take advantage of the sessions that are on offer, not just during Get Online Week but throughout the year.

A customer who attended a recent 'Tech made simple' appointment on the library computers, said: Couldn't believe it was so simple. I feel a bit silly of how worried I was about using them. Thanks so much for the help.

Residents at Housing 21's Extra Care scheme, Dairy View, are part of a national pilot Technology for our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (TAPPI). The pilot is aimed at improving the way technology is used in housing to maintain independence and boost social interaction. Residents test tablets, devices, apps and smart living solutions and provide feedback to help shape the council-wide approach to using technology in the future.

One resident, who is 89 years old has successfully mastered using a tablet, ordering her shopping on-line and ordering items through Amazon. She commented with the help of Paul, an AbilityNet volunteer -who has the patience of a saint - I've been supported to learn new digital skills. I will not be beaten and enjoy taking the time to learn new things.

Paul, an AbilityNet volunteer commented Working with the Dairy View residents has been a rewarding journey of exploration in the world of technology. During each session, we've been enthusiastically learning and embracing new digital skills while having a great time.

Chippenham, Devizes, Salisbury, Trowbridge and Warminster libraries work with the Good Things Foundation to distribute free SIM cards and mobile data to people in need via the National Databank Scheme. More information and eligibility criteria can be found The National Databank is now available at Wiltshire Council libraries.

Contact your local library or visit the to find out more about the computer access, support and online services available.

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