Launched in 2015, Digital Brighton & Hove is one of our flagship projects and a great example of our Switch approach in practice. The Digital Brighton & Hove partnership grew out of a request from Brighton & Hove City Council for some research and evaluation into digital exclusion. The project continues to provide innovative solutions and services for digitally excluded people, and work to support staff and volunteers in other organisations with their digital transformation journeys.
As of March 2018, the project has:
- recruited 266 Digital Champions (DCs);
- delivered 2600+ individual digital skills support sessions;
- supported a minimum of 1,750 individual learners[i];
- developed a partner network of 150+ organisations and 850+ people engaged in digital inclusion;
- created a bespoke signposting website — digitalbrightonandhove.org.uk — where Digital Champions and local residents can find information about 36 places to get online in the city for free and 56 drop-ins, courses and sessions that are available to help with basic digital skills. The site has been visited by over 5,000 unique individuals.
Why Brighton & Hove?
Known as a vibrant, rapidly-growing creative and digital tech hub, many see Brighton & Hove as a surprising choice for a Digital Inclusion project. While the Get Digital Heatmap states that the “likelihood of overall digital exclusion is low” as “84% of adults in Brighton and Hove [are estimated to] have all five Basic Digital Skills”, this still leaves 16% of the adult population without basic digital skills.
Our experience working on digital inclusion projects in over 50 areas across the UK tells us that there are pockets of digital exclusion everywhere — whether people lack connectivity, access, skills, confidence or the motivation to get online — and Brighton & Hove has proved to be no different.
What we know has worked in Brighton & Hove has been a level of engagement from leaders. We’ve tried to switch the conversation from having digital inclusion as an often-forgotten bolt on activity, to being part of service re–design. This requires leaders of organisations first to understand how digital transformation can raise issues for their customers, client base or communities. A process of supporting and advocating digital inclusion activity as part of day–to–day work is needed. We engaged with managers, directors and chief executives across a wide range of organisations who had a stake in digital inclusion; from statutory services to the third sector — because everyone needs to have an idea of the challenge and the tasks at hand. Being a Digital Champion needs to start from the top!
What We Did
To help build the picture of digital exclusion in the area, we looked not only at data but also conducted a policy review examining all references to digital inclusion for the locality. We tied this into the Digital Maturity Assessments, three different types of surveys for stakeholder organisations aimed at frontline staff, team managers and strategic leads. The surveys assess a range of areas including digital skill levels, digital confidence and the level of experience when dealing with those without digital skills. Together, they provide us with an insight into how digitally mature the organisations are, and indicate areas that require work.
We followed this up with interactive sessions for all stakeholders, including a first session working together to understand the key drivers and required outcomes for the project. As an independent party, we find this helps to encourage joint working and ensure all partners are fully invested in a joint action plan to help the project fly.
Partnership and Project Sustainability
The Digital Brighton & Hove project is managed via a quarterly Steering Group meeting attended by Council officers from the Libraries Services, ICT, Digital Transformation and Revenues & Benefits departments, together with representatives from Citizens Advice, Brighton Housing Trust (Social Housing Provider), the DWP, NHS, BT and Possability People (a third sector disability support service).
Initially funded by the Big Lottery Fund as part of the One Digital Programme Phase 1, and the Council (who in turn had secured funding from BT), the project we’ve developed has proved successful enough to secure further funding. Funds from the Council’s Digital First programme, the Big Lottery Fund One Digital Phase 2 and Sussex Police (through the Proceeds of Crime Fund) will ensure the project runs to at least May 2019. We’ve also received in–kind support from Brighton & Hove Buses who’ve displayed our posters on the bus network, generating more enquiries and digital sessions across the city.
To extend partnership working, Citizens Online host an open digital inclusion network meeting once a quarter, and link in with other relevant citywide forums including the Citywide Connect Partnership and the Work & Learning Forum. The project also reports to the Council’s ‘Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee’ which has representatives from across the statutory and voluntary sectors.
Feedback from users
We’ve had positive reviews from the people we’ve helped.
We believe everyone can benefit from having access to and the skills to use the internet – especially as these basic digital skills are becoming increasingly important in a world where more and more essential government services are accessed online. We have additional Big Lottery funding to help other public sector organisations address digital exclusion wherever you are in the UK, with our Switch approach. Please get in touch to hear more about how we can help.
[i] We say a minimum, because this only includes the sessions we’ve been able to record – the wider reach of Digital Champion activity is much greater.