A digital inclusion programme delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre in partnership with the Good Things Foundation and Swansea University is receiving a further £6m funding to continue its work until 2025.
The project, called Digital Communities Wales (DCW), has been running since July 2019 to support organisations working on digital inclusion projects. The programme, which forms part of the Welsh Government’s Digital Strategy for Wales, aims to enable more people to become digitally confident so that they have better access to employment opportunities and health services, reduced isolation and improved well-being.
So far the programme has helped to train over 4,000 members of staff across 1,600 organisations to support more than 75,000 Welsh citizens to get online or improve their digital skills.
Last year, DCW launched a training programme designed to support digitally excluded minority ethnic communities to get online, which involves offering free training to organisations so that they can both improve their digital skills and help others build theirs.
Jocelle Lovell, director of inclusive communities at the Wales Co-operative Centre, said: “We’re delighted to continue our relationship with the Welsh Government in delivering digital inclusion work, something that goes back to 2005. The Digital Communities Wales programme has undergone significant change over the past 18 months, pivoting its delivery model, and responding to ever-changing needs in light of the pandemic, particularly from the health and social care sector.
“With this three-year extension we have an incredible opportunity to build on the achievements of the past three years and take forward key pieces of work with Local Health Boards, Local Authorities, and pan-Wales partnerships to ensure sustainable solutions are put in place to support those individuals that are still digitally excluded.”
The National Survey for Wales 2021-22 April to June shows that the percentage of people who do not use the internet has dropped from 23% in 2012/13 to 7%. However, certain groups are overrepresented in this area, for example, only 36% of people over 75 have basic digital skills, compared with 87% of 16-49 year olds and 87% of people with a disability or long-term health condition use the internet compared with 93% of those without.
Ms Lovell explained that digitally excluded people are some of the heaviest users of health and social care services, so risk being left behind in the digital health revolution, adding: “They are the individuals who stand to gain the most from this programme, to help improve the quality of their lives.”
The Welsh minister for social justice, MS Jane Hutt, welcomed the announcement. “I’m delighted to ensure that this vitally important funding will continue the Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being Programme,” she said. “Digital inclusion at it’s very heart is about equality – equality of opportunity and the ability to improve health and wellbeing, reducing loneliness and the feeling of isolation for thousands across Wales.
We’re committed to building a stronger, greener and fairer Wales for all, continuing the Digital Communities Wales Programme is a step towards achieving that.”