County council joins forces with charity Citizens Online to tackle digital exclusion

A digital champion supports an older person to use their tablet device.

Surrey County Council has teamed up with charity Citizens Online to tackle digital exclusion as figures reveal that one in 10 residents lack at least one main online skill.

Around 133,000 people in Surrey can’t communicate, access content, complete a transaction, solve a problem or remain safe online, according to the Office for National Statistics.

To combat this, the charity has teamed up with Surrey County Council to support residents lacking digital skills.

It will roll out its award-winning “Switch” approach, which involves pinpointing where digitally excluded people live, analysing local digital inclusion schemes already operating, identifying gaps in provision and getting organisations – whether they are public services, voluntary groups or businesses – involved.

The two organisations will seek to build a network of digital champions across Surrey, which involves volunteers supporting residents with poor digital skills.

Any organisation – from public services to firms small and large – wanting to get involved can contact

Switch is part funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and is also part of the One Digital programme developed with the likes of Age UK and Clarion Futures.

Citizens Online Chief Executive John Fisher said:

“We have been impressed with Surrey County Council’s commitment to evidence and work towards a joined-up solution to this difficult issue of supporting digital skills.

“We want to change the way local service providers and funders perceive the issue of digital inclusion – from being a ‘bolt-on activity’ to a way of working that is part of business as usual.”

Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for promoting digital inclusion Charlotte Morley said:

“Digital inclusion isn’t just about whether people can access the internet, it’s also about their ability to use it.

“This partnership is all about improving the digital skills of people of all ages so everyone can enjoy the benefits of modern technology, whether that’s enjoying Skype to stay in touch with families, booking appointments or using services – including the county council’s – at any time.”