Computer use in Blaenau Gwent Libraries increases by a quarter since the launch of Get Blaenau Gwent Online
Get Blaenau Gwent Online works with local groups and organisations to provide free computer sessions to people who want get online, learn how to use the web and realise its benefits. It combines a number of projects in the county all aimed at helping individuals, community groups and enterprises get online.
New technology skills are becoming as important as reading and writing, and those who do not have those skills are likely to become increasingly economically and socially disadvantaged. The Digital Inclusion agenda is about improving people’s lives; helping people to communicate more easily, purchase goods for lower prices, and about being able to access public services more easily. Digital inclusion is also about reducing social isolation.
Gethin Hunt, Digital Inclusion Officer for the project, is delivering one-to-one sessions in all six libraries in Blaenau Gwent, “Sessions are tailored to the needs of the customer, including support for job-seekers, accessing social media, e-mailing, and help for those seeking money saving advice. The project takes the fear out of IT, by demonstrating the positive aspects of how getting online can improve your life”.
Gethin encourages customers to continue to access the IT facilities in libraries after their initial sessions with the project. Many customers have progressed onto further learning opportunities, and others have explored new hobbies such as family history. For some customers, the help they have received has resulted in job opportunities.
Get Blaenau Gwent Online has been made possible through partnership working between the local authority, various community partners and the Welsh Government’s digital inclusion programme, Communities 2.0, which is supported by European Regional Development Funding.
The initiative has also benefitted from the support of several local Registered Social Landlords including Linc who have donated memory sticks to help beneficiaries have a mobile method of saving work such as letters to employers, CVs and other important correspondence. They are hoping to provide more memory sticks to the libraries in the near future to support the initiative.
Councillor Haydn Trollope, Executive Member for Social Services – Adult Services, and Digital Champion at Blaenau Gwent Council, said: “The Council and its communities have really embraced this exciting project.It is an example of successful partnership working with huge benefits to both local people and the local authority.”
Cathryn Marcus, Project Director of Communities 2.0 sees the increase in usage as evidence of the continued high demand for support for individuals to access the internet, “We are delighted that the Get Blaenau Gwent Online initiative has been so successful in such a short period of time. It is imperative that everybody in Wales has access to the internet for communication, for learning opportunities and to ensure they have the same access to jobs and money saving advice as those who have access to the internet in their own home. Libraries, and the local authorities who support them, are the essential backbone to our work”.
Feedback from customers using the facilities illustrates the range of ICT support needs that can be met with projects such as Get Blaenau Gwent Online. Sian is a customer at Blaina Library: “I have been coming to the library every week since August with the ‘Get BlaenauGwent Online’ project. I had never used a computer before and I felt like I was being left behind. I am now able to use e-mail, shop online and I have saved money with buying my car insurance. I am starting to think about returning to work soon, I feel confident now I have the skills for applying for jobs online”.
Lindsay,a customer at Ebbw Vale Library is setting up her own business: “I have had great help from Gethin with the Get Blaenau Gwent Online project. My business is now on e-Bay and I am now able to promote it on Facebook – it is really taking off! It has been great to just pop into the library, when it is convenient for me”
Julie Hales is Senior Library Assistant at Ebbw Vale Library: “The ‘Get BlaenauGwent Online’ project has really helped us reduce our waiting list for sessions in the library. Gethin delivers the ‘Digital Friday’ sessions at Ebbw Vale library every week and the customer feedback we have received has been excellent. The project is a real asset to the library service - it has attracted new users and increased library membership. It appeals to our customers as the sessions are tailored to what they want to learn, without the need to attend formal lessons”.
Further information about Get Blaenau Gwent Online is available on www.getblaenaugwentonline.org.uk or by calling Mark Robbins, Digital Inclusion Co-ordinator on 01485 355457.
For further information about Communities 2.0, visit our website or call 0845 474 8282