The Welsh government has allocated £2m in funding to a new digital inclusion programme to be delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre. The project builds on Communities 2.0, a programme designed by the government in 2009 to tackle digital exclusion.
The Centre has led the project management for Communities 2.0, bringing its expertise in financial inclusion and social enterprise development. So far, over 60,000 people in Wales have received help getting online from Communities 2.0, which comes to an end on 31 March 2015. This exceeded the government’s initial target of 20,000 beneficiaries.
Announcing the new digital inclusion project, Lesley Griffiths, minister for communities and tackling poverty, said: “The new programme will build on the success of Communities 2.0 and help more people to benefit from using the internet.
“It is vital we continue digital inclusion activities so everyone has the opportunity to improve their lives through the use of technology – whether it’s buying goods and services more easily and for lower prices, accessing public services or increased employment opportunities.”
One of the main aims of Communities 2.0 has been to encourage other groups – such as local authorities, housing associations and national or regional support organisations, to take on the role of digital leader. The programme has also supported some social enterprises and co-operatives as part of its remit, including Pembrokeshire Machinery Ring and RCT Homes.
Around 74 full-time equivalent jobs have been created through Communities 2.0, with jobs being safeguarded or individuals progressing directly into jobs following the support received. The programme has also helped 347 people progress directly in the workplace as a result of the digital training received through Communities 2.0.
The new programme, called Digital Communities Wales, will run for two years, with the possibility for a two-year extension. While the project is not directly part of its co-operative development activities, the Welsh Co-operative Centre will be working using co-operative principles and partnerships to help address the problem of digital exclusion.
As part of the initiative, over 400 organisations from the private, public and third sectors will receive training and support on how to engage people with technologies. Volunteering will also play an important role and various organisations are encouraged to recruit 500 volunteers to help people get online. The project seeks to help 15,000 digitally excluded people engage with technology each year.
Another objective of the programme will be to help 500 people each year overcome their ICT barriers and enhance their employability. More than 50,000 people in Wales are still offline. The Welsh government is prioritising groups for digital inclusion – those above 50 years old, people with disabilities, those living in social housing and the unemployed.
Derek Walker, chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, said: “We have a history of working in partnership with other organisations and agencies to deliver positive solutions for the people of Wales and we are looking forward to working with colleagues across the country to implement digital inclusion measures where they are most needed.”