This project has received £499,962 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and is being delivered on behalf of the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority (TVCA).
The digital inclusion project, named DIG-IT (Digital Inclusion – Growing in IT), aims to increase digital inclusion across the Tees Valley, working with delivery partners The Hope Foundation and Good Things Foundation to develop and test the feasibility of solutions and services which will enable those most excluded from digital access to fully participate in today’s digital society.
This project will explore solutions to three main barriers to digital inclusion with activities that aim to address skills gaps, helping to build confidence and security through digital skills provision. These barriers include the lack of equipment, particularly during a period of high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, as well as the lack of connectivity, skills and confidence due to low affordability and scepticism of using technology.
The planned ‘digital skills for living’ pilot programme will offer non-accredited, functional digital skills provision to those that are economically inactive in the Tees Valley and support individuals who are issued with devices, along with other targeted service users to develop the digital skills needed to connect with and have access to education, jobs, health, social care and other public services.
Teesside University will provide an academic-led evaluation of the programme’s impact and sustainability, offering recommendations for future digital inclusion work which, in turn, will support the testing and modelling of pilot activities and enable a data-based approach to future support and investment.
Activities such as working with Tees Valley digital social enterprise furbdit, which refurbishes unwanted computer equipment, is also a part of the DIG-IT project plans, as the funding provided will enable the development of a long term, embedded and sustainable solution to digital device poverty across the Tees Valley.
Lynsey Robinson, Director of DigitalCity & Economic Development, said: “This project represents an exciting opportunity for Tees Valley to come together and test and trial new ways of doing things and developing new ideas. Teesside University is thrilled to be leading this project and we are looking forward to collaborating with partners over the nine-month period to find new ways to tackle digital poverty.”
Sue Kearney, CEO at The Hope Foundation, said: “We are so pleased, as a voluntary organisation, to be part of this piece of work which will make a real difference across the Tees Valley. The development of furbdit has been exciting and we have seen the difference that devices can make to local people.
Teesside University is thrilled to be leading this project and we are looking forward to collaborating with partners over the nine-month period to find new ways to tackle digital poverty.
“The project will help us to look at a sustainable solution for the device recycling as well as exploring the impact on the environment. By linking the device work with skills and connectivity, we can explore further creative solutions to digital poverty which will make a real difference for local people and inform future decision making through the TVCA.”
Emma Stone, Director of Evidence and Engagement at Good Things Foundation, said: “As the UK's leading digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation is excited to be a DIG-IT partner.
“It's a brilliant opportunity to grow the number of digital inclusion hubs in the Tees Valley and raise awareness of free support they can get through the National Digital Inclusion Network - powering them to help local people who face digital barriers such as struggling to afford mobile data or not being confident to use the internet for life and work.
“Funding for collaborative approaches like DIG-IT which will increase digital access, skills and support in communities is exactly what UK Shared Prosperity Funds should be used for.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Having access to digital technologies and the confidence to use them is one of the most important aspects of life today – and this will only become more crucial.
“From access to good quality jobs and skills, healthcare and goods to simply keeping in touch with family and friends, digitisation is everywhere.
“As we look to the future and further incorporate digital into everything we’re driving in the region – transport, education, culture and more – the benefits are endless. This programme will help ensure no one gets left behind and they can capitalise on digital to improve their lives.”
If you are already involved in digital inclusion work that you think should be included in DIG-IT’s project research or if you are interested in getting involved in future digital inclusion projects, please contact email@example.com.