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Digi-buddies getting Lambeth online

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Lambeth is the first London borough to pilot a unique scheme where web savvy people help others get online.

The initiative, which was officially launched at an event on Monday (APRIL 7), aims to support the 26,000 people – just over 10% of Lambeth residents – who don’t use the internet and the Government is already holding it up as a best practice model for digital inclusion.

Volunteers, known as ‘Digi-buddies’ are being recruited from the  community including A-level health and social care students, jobseekers who need work experience,  council staff using their permitted volunteer time as well as anyone who’s got time to spare to help their  local community.

The scheme has been lauded as a first step in getting Britain to be the most digitally active country in the world – it currently lies 12th.

Jessica Costa, 21, a job seeker from Brixton, signed up as a volunteer last month and has been mentoring people every week.

She said: “Everyone seems to be enjoying it and they find it really useful for applying for jobs and training online.

“I’ve already had one of my learners get an interview for a training position so it’s clearly working.

“There is a real mixture of people from different cultures and backgrounds.  Most of the people are older and it seems to get busier every week.”

Initially, Digi-buddies will work with people in community centres and Brixton and Streatham Libraries but the number and range of locations is expected to increase to include sheltered housing schemes and similar community hubs across the borough.

Representatives from the Government Digital Service and digital skills charity Go ON UK gave speeches at the launch on Monday along with Cllr Paul McGlone, Lambeth Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources.

Cllr Paul McGlone said: “Digital exclusion is a major concern – more and more services from benefits to banking and health are online.

“What’s more, potential employers expect a basic level of digital literacy. For many people, being unable to access online information about finance, welfare and work means they are missing out.

“The Digi-buddies initiative brings local people together in a way that helps everyone.”

Graham Walker, CEO of Go ON UK, said “It is fantastic to see initiatives like Digi-buddies taking off and inspiring people to share their digital skills with others.

“There are so many benefits to being online, it’s crucial that as many people as possible have access to them.

“At Go ON UK, we want to make the UK the most digitally skilled nation in the world – and programmes like Digi-buddies will help achieve that.”

Digi-buddies are looking to support those who are long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, people with learning difficulties and disabled and elderly people who are often socially isolated.

The Lambeth pilot project will run for nine months and will be managed by the Thames Reach charity.  If anybody is interested in becoming a Digi-buddy, they should contact erhelpdesk@thamesreach.org.uk or call 0203 617 6070.

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