Social Enterprise Kent – Our Digital Inclusion Experience and Lessons Learned
Social Enterprise Kent (SEK) provided a Digital Inclusion Project until the end of 2022, creating a SEK Digital Inclusion Strategy which included wider research and finding across Kent. Our Digital Inclusion Project formed part of our commitment to improving the quality of life for residents in Kent. This includes improving the availability of and access to digital services throughout Kent, acknowledging that by giving individuals the opportunity to have access to these skills has a positive impact on their wellbeing and helps to tackle social isolation.
The ability to access and use online services is increasingly important, whether it is to make online benefits applications, seek employment and training opportunities or to find out more about community activities or events. The potential benefits to the vulnerable people in the community can help build their ability and address issues associated with financial inclusion, poverty as well as social benefits associated with health and wellbeing. The benefits of residents and organisations being online cannot be underestimated. From communicating easily with the world around us, accessing learning and job opportunities, managing finances, accessing television streaming platforms and accessing online GP Patient services. All of these can help tackle digital exclusion, thus improving the mental wellbeing of individuals.
Digital inclusion is about ensuring people have the capability to use the internet and technology such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops to carry out various day to day activities. It is important, as being online provides many benefits to people. Five of the main five benefits of having digital skills, these include: 1. Earnings benefits, 2. Employability benefits, 3. Retail transaction benefits, 4. Communication benefits, 5. Time saving benefits.
To meet the demand for digital inclusion support, we created a ‘Digital Inclusion Champions’ programme. We recruited volunteers to become Digital Inclusion Champions, buddying them with an individual needing support. Training and support were provided via existing training materials supplied by the SEK Training Team. We built a series of step-by-step guides that were passed onto our Digital Inclusion Champions, to support them with their training. We acknowledged that there were various engagement barriers, identifying some of these and ways to overcome them in the following ways:
- Lack of access: We provided information to those using our service having details of places and venues with free wi-fi access and computers to use on site. For example, local library, internet cafes.
- Lack of skills: We provided training via our Digital Inclusion Champion Programme and provided participants with useful links to free online resources to help improve skills as well as material created by us.
- Lack of confidence: We increased individuals’ confidence through the provision of training and support and the experience attendees gained.
- Lack of Motivation: We created questionnaires, asking potential participants to outline specific areas (as many as they like) in which they need training in. This way we tailored the sessions to meet everybody’s individual needs whether that be via 1-1 sessions or group sessions. We spoke to individuals to outline any frustrations with using technology and explain that they can be overcome via our training.
Moving forward we continue to support people to access free digital support by actively signposting to Digital Kent, a scheme run by Kent County Council. Contact details are:
Tel: 03000 410950
What is Digital Inclusion?
Digital inclusion is about ensuring the benefits of the internet and digital technologies are available to everyone.
Digitally-excluded people can lack skills, confidence and motivation, along with having limited or no access to equipment and connectivity. This can create additional layers of social exclusion and exacerbate social and economic problems.