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Go Digital Newcastle: Connecting the Toon!

November 26, 2014

In August 2014, the residents’ support element of Newcastle City Council’s wider ‘Go Digital Newcastle’ programme was awarded a research bursary of £6,000 by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Information Literacy Group for its ‘outstanding’ project proposal: ‘Go Digital Newcastle: Connecting Our City’.

This project brings together public, commercial and third sector organisations to create the best possible digital support network for residents and businesses in Newcastle upon Tyne: fostering personal relationships and mutual trust in the pursuit of a shared objective (raising levels of digital literacy) to ensure that people in Newcastle have access to the support that they need. Announcing the award, Nancy Graham, Chair of the CILIP IL Group, stated:

“The IL Group is absolutely thrilled to be funding this outstanding bid. This project has the potential to impact positively on the lives of thousands of people in Newcastle through dedicated training and support to access and make best use of information online. We look forward to seeing the progress of Go Digital Newcastle and the benefits that it will bring.”

As more services are delivered either predominantly or exclusively online, those without the means or skills to access the internet are at increasing risk of isolation. Newcastle – like many cities in the UK – has a vibrant third sector, active community groups and a wealth of education providers offering free or low cost internet access and training. Yet those who would gain most from this support either aren’t aware of the benefits (and increasing necessity) of being online, don’t know that help is available, aren’t comfortable or confident in the environments where assistance is offered, or are unwilling to ask for help.

‘Go Digital Newcastle: Connecting Our City’ provides relevant, local opportunities for those who feel digitally excluded to develop, or improve their digital literacy skills; enhance their employment prospects; demystify the online world and understand digital citizenship. The project works with, and for, local people to understand more about the existing barriers to digital inclusion, and to demonstrate to them how a few basic digital skills such as sending an email, accessing an audiobook, online map or bus timetable can go a long way.

In the space of a few short and very busy months, we have partnered with Northumbria University to develop digital skills and awareness sessions for Newcastle City Council staff; delivered digital inclusion activities for residents across the city to mark Older People’s Day, Mental Health Awareness Day and Alcohol Awareness Week; worked with partners such as Newcastle City Learning, JET, Building Futures East and the West Walker Check IT Out Project to offer new courses and training opportunities, and developed a (soon to be launched) interactive online map of Computer and Internet Access and Training facilities across the city. And doesn’t look like the pace will be letting up anytime soon!

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