As lockdown started, Homes for Lambeth got in touch with residents on estates being redeveloped to create new homes and discovered how many of them had no Internet access – exactly when going online was the best and safest way to contact the council and stay connected with friends and family. Some were IT savvy, but libraries and job centres where they usually get onto computers closed. Some hadn’t ever used a computer or smartphone. In partnership with Clear Community Web, HfL set up a pilot project with residents who volunteered to take part.
More than tablets
Caspar for ClearCommunityWeb says: “It’s more than making tablet computers available, even more important is offering learning sessions about what people said they need and want. One man’s children bought him an I-Pad but he only got it out of the cupboard to say ‘yes, I’m using it’ when they contacted him”.
Wendy Bohan of Hfl says: “Using the computer to find money-saving energy deals and discounted tariffs is one subject people asked for, it gets them into comparison sites. We’ll run sessions on job searches and Opportunity Lambeth, on safe online shopping, on council services. Mums love our drama sessions to fill in the gaps in a story, which will also go online. We started sessions with a counsellor, initially put on for residents to talk about any concerns about the covid pandemic but it’s developed into virtual group work on wellbeing.”
Caspar says: “The crux of digital inclusion isn’t connectivity, it’s connection. We’re overcoming mistrust based on hearing about scams and worrying about losing human interaction as people live more and more online. Learning keeps people coming back. One resident has been running craft sessions by phone and we hope to get her online – we think that big reveal that you can see what each has done – we think that will be a real inspiration for other people.
“In August we plan to invite people to ‘digital horizons’ roadshows on HfL estates – outdoors, in gazebos, with free masks and hand sanitiser for safety – including a 121 clinic from ClearCommunityWeb on technology, any problems with your laptop or smartphone. This project is working with just a small sample of people, but we believe the impact will be that they influence the wider community to think ‘I can learn to do what they’re doing – with this little box I can go anywhere in the world’.”
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