A two-year initiative in Orkney to help local people access the internet, learn new skills and realise the benefits of being online is to being launched this month.
The project aims to encourage greater participation with public services through use of technology and assist the unemployed in geographically remote areas by improving their ability to access online sites.
Anticipated benefits to older and disabled people include reduced isolation, increased confidence in online facilities such as telecare and telehealth and improved access to government services.
The project will be managed by national charity Citizens Online and funded by BT (as part of the wider Get IT Together programme), Orkney Housing Association Ltd (OHAL), Scottish Government (PCF), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and a variety of local partners.
A Project Co-ordinator will be recruited locally and be based at the OHAL's offices.
John Fisher, Chief Executive of Citizens Online, said: “We are really pleased to be working in Orkney and looking forward to the challenges of delivering the project across the region. The success of these initiatives is working in partnership and the team is keen to talk to any organisation, community group or individual that would like to participate or get involved in any way.”
Theresa Swayne, Senior Development Manager for Digital at HIE, said: “The project led by Citizens Online is bringing digital inclusion to remote communities in Orkney and supports individuals to develop internet and technology-based skills.
“HIE is working to ensure that the project covers some of the region’s more fragile areas and the model has established excellent results in other areas. We are continuing to work along with our partners, in particular Broadband Delivery UK and the Scottish Government, to secure superfast broadband provision and help businesses and communities to improve IT knowledge and skills.”
Brendan Dick, director, BT Scotland, said: “BT has been helping people get online for many years and we have made significant investments in training across the Highlands and Islands, supporting local communities and getting people online.
“We recently completed a three-year long project in Caithness and we are working on projects in Skye, Lochaber, Wester Ross and North-west Sutherland which began last year.
“Not being online puts people at a real disadvantage, as they are unable to access the big consumer savings, information and education found on the web and projects such as this one in Orkney are a vital means of giving digitally excluded people the skills, motivation and confidence to get online.”
Sally Inkster, OHAL Chief Executive said: “I am delighted that with the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Funding, OHAL is able to participate in this project which aims to prevent isolation and improve employability through digital inclusion. IT connectivity is particularly important to those in remote areas and this project will provide an opportunity for anyone in Orkney who has not yet embraced this technology to have the help and support they need to do so.”