Disrupting Digital Exclusion – Why I am looking for 20 Local Authorities to support

Written by John Fisher, Chief Executive of Citizens Online

Innovation is the key to service transformation. The tech sector thrives on it and each week we’re hearing another story about digital disrupters and those who are challenging traditional ways of delivering services and problem solving.

The problems that most concern me are, how can we support these disrupted organisations to ensure their clients can keep pace with the innovation of and access to digital services?  How can we achieve basic digital skills for all? How can we empower our staff to become digitally confident not only to carry out their job, but also to help service users?

When we formed Citizens Online in 2001, we knew that lack of digital skills had already been a problem for far too many people and that they were often the most disadvantaged in our society. The problem remains 16 years later. It has changed in its nature, but staggeringly, 24% of adults in the UK lack one of the five basic digital skills.

So far we have worked in more than 50 communities around the UK and certainly learnt a lot during that time. We’ve been meticulous in evaluating our work and honest about what works and what doesn’t. In the early days, we delivered basic digital skills, training thousands of people to use email, fill in forms online etc. Other organisations have a similar approach. However, the realisation struck us that even with an army of people, we would really only scratch the surface. There was also the nagging questions of how do we reach those most at risk of exclusion? How do we know we’re working with the right people?

Our response was to radically re-think the model and to develop a new approach we’ve called, Switch. At it heart is a belief that knowledge is the key to targeted, effective delivery and that   partnership working is essential to build capacity. Switch offers both in a bespoke package.

Instead of a single organisation trying to tackle this alone, we build a strong, engaged local partnership. Public, private and voluntary sector organisations, working together on a jointly agreed strategy and action plan developed during facilitated workshops run by Citizens Online, to create real impact. The comprehensive baseline report incorporated with Switch, provides detailed evidence to identify those most at risk. We use multiple data sources, interviews and digital maturity assessments to build an accurate picture of what’s already been achieved, and what still needs attention. Instead of delivering just where there is a library, we target the harder to reach groups and engage within communities.

We’re proud of our achievements and delighted to be awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund to deliver Switch and help more organisations reap the benefits of digital transformation by taking their communities along with them.

We now have match funding available for 20 Switch partners and are inviting expressions of interest from the Digital Leaders community to be early adopters of this time limited offer.

To find out more about partnering with us and what Switch can offer please follow the link here www.citizensonline.org.uk


Citizens Online are a finalist in 2018’s DL100 Awards in the Digital Skills or Inclusion category. Check out the finalists and vote for your digital champions below.


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