Welsh council looks for digital resilience

Gwynedd Council has launched a new project that aims to enable everyone throughout the county to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technology.

Digital Resilience, led by the council with the support of the charity Citizens Online, is a partnership aimed at ensuring improvements in broadband connectivity encourage better computer skills among all sections of society.

The partnership has agreed on a work programme that focuses on two key priorities:

  • using digital opportunities to reduce poverty in the county,
  • improving digital skills in rural communities.

Gwynedd Council says it is rolling out the project because there is a clear correlation between poverty and poor digital skills and improving those skills is an integral part of its strategy to tackle poverty.

Easier job hunting, improved computer literacy and enhanced access to government services that are being moved online are cited as key drivers behind Digital Resilience.

Councillor Mandy Williams-Davies, Gwynedd Council’s cabinet member for economy said: “The project is also about improving digital skills in rural communities in particular. As well as the need for getting high speed broadband in all parts of the county, it is also important that local communities learn how to make full use of the new technology.

“One of our key aims, for example, is to help older members of rural communities to get online. We need to encourage them to see how simple it is to use  things like e-mail and how easy it is to keep in touch with friends and relatives be they a couple of miles down the road or on the other side of the world.”


Significant challenges

There is a significant challenge ahead, according to the Digital Resilience partnership’s initial report outlining the present situation.

Whilst the most recent data from Ofcom shows clear improvements in the availability of superfast broadband in the county, it is still low in comparison with other areas.

The partnership’s analysis of the Gwynedd population suggests that one in three households are at risk of digital exclusion, with the majority of these classified either as older people or those living in remote rural areas. It shows that the number of public access computers available is low, with an estimate of only one PC or laptop being available for every 200 of the households at risk of digital exclusion.

The report stresses the need for an increased provision of coaching in libraries and Job Centre Plus offices, as well as training for frontline staff in key organisations who lack basic digital skills.

“It is clear that more needs to be done in terms of training and access provision,” added Councillor Williams-Davies. “I am pleased that there have been improvements in the availability of superfast broadband in Gwynedd, and whilst we are committed to continuing to lobby for further improvements, it is equally important that all sections of society are able to benefit from the opportunities offered by these latest developments.”

The project has received funding through One Digital, the national consortium committed to improving digital skills funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

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