Digital Inclusion across Derbyshire – call for collaboration

Since 2000, Citizens Online have been working across the UK to ensure that no one is left behind in today’s digital age. The Charity has a wealth of experience in digital inclusion and listens to people who are digitally excluded, to help organisations to digitally transform in an inclusive way.

Citizens Online have recently started working with the Public Health team at Derbyshire County Council and in partnership with Rural Action Derbyshire to assess the current digital inclusion ecosystem across the County in order to develop an ambitious digital inclusion strategy.

We know that digital exclusion across Derbyshire is a significant public health issue. Around 62,000 people in the county have never used the internet, and many more lack the five essential digital skills for life. Inevitably, the COVID-19 pandemic has further heightened the digital divide as more services move online and become ‘digital by default’. People using online services can save on average £228 a year and 87% of those online say it helps them connect better to friends and family. We want to ensure that everyone can benefit from using technology.

As part of our work, we are keen to engage with organisations that are already providing digital inclusion support so we can identify any gaps, highlight what’s working well and co-produce future provision. We are also keen to hear residents’ views about using technology. Please email or phone 0808 196 5883 if you’d like to take part.

Based on this review, we aim to achieve a strengths-based collaborative effort to tackle and break down the three main barriers to creating a digitally inclusive Derbyshire, namely:

  • Provide residents in need with access to equipment and data
  • Promote the benefits of being online to motivate people to engage with digital tools
  • Improve digital skills provision by having more digital champions across the County to provide person-centred training

Cllr Hart, Cabinet Leader for Communities at Derbyshire County Council, states:

There is a strong link between groups that are digitally excluded and those at greater risk of health inequalities. People from excluded groups, such as those who are socially isolated, living in poverty, living with a long-term condition, or struggling with an addiction, often find it difficult to access the digital world due to their skills, motivation, and technical capacity. Helping them to access and use digital tools can enhance their digital literacy and foster digital activities when it comes to budgeting, money-saving, connecting with friends and family, and seeking a healthier lifestyle which in turn improves public health outcomes.”

Helen Dobson, Managing Director here at Citizens Online said:

“We’re delighted that Derbyshire is committed to ensuring that residents, especially the most vulnerable people are supported to develop digital skills and have a positive experience with technology. We will work in partnership with communities to develop the strategy that will embed digital inclusion; making the work sustainable and eradicate digital poverty for good.”

Charlotte Winterbottom, Policy and Partnerships Office, Rural Action Derbyshire added:

“This work compliments and adds value to our NHS Charities Together funded digital inclusion project which aims to; develop a network of digital inclusion projects across Derbyshire, pilot new digital skills activities with the help of digital champions and strengthen the digital resilience of our Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector. We’re working in partnership to achieve the greatest impact for our communities and want everyone to benefit from technology.”

Together with The Digital Inclusion team at Derbyshire Public Health, we will be approaching partners in Amber Valley, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, Erewash, High Peak, North-East Derbyshire and South Derbyshire in due course, with a view to collaboratively working on this project.