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Bexley residents helped to get online by L&Q Digital Champions

Nov 29 2016

Prince DC

L&Q is calling on tech-savvy residents to join their growing community of Digital Champions in Bexley and across London

Last year L&Q launched its Digital Champion Network to create an army of Champions who can help more of their residents to get the most out of the internet.

An estimated 12.6 million people¹ across the UK don’t have ‘basic digital skills’ meaning they can’t send an email or search the web and are missing out on the benefits digital technology can provide. 

In Outer London, including areas such as Bexley, 377,000 people have never or rarely use the internet, equivalent to around 1 in 10 local residents² and those who are offline are most likely to be living in social housing. L&Q manages more than 5,200 homes in the London Borough of Bexley.

Living near Sidcup and based at L&Q’s Cray House head office in Foots Cray, Kieron Prince is a Senior Systems Engineer for IT Service Delivery for the housing association and one of its most passionate Digital Champions.

“Being a Digital Champion and helping people to make real progress with their computer skills is really satisfying,” he says. “Especially when you see them start to realise the doors opened up to them thanks to their new found skills.” 

Kieron, was first made aware that he had a calling for helping others use computers when his mum had problems arranging to see her doctor. “My mum isn’t well versed with the internet,” he says, “so she wasn’t pleased when her doctor’s surgery insisted she had to book her appointments online.”

Working in IT means Kieron is very comfortable with all things digital, so he offered to help. “I went through everything with her until she was fluent in booking her own appointments,” he says. “Her feeling of achievement was beautiful to see.”

When he saw that L&Q was looking for people to volunteer as digital champions and help some of its residents with the internet, he quickly signed up to volunteer and was initially teamed with an older woman who is an L&Q resident near Sidcup.

“I think she came with a mix of apprehension and frustration with previous experience of using computers,” Kieron says. “But I also sensed in her a feeling of hope and anticipation.”

He spent a total of nine hours with the resident over the following two months. By the end of it, she had visited online shopping sites and, while looking, she had also learned about online safety. She experimented with internet radio and internet TV too, and joined a local community group where she registered for a flower-arranging event. 

In her last session she learned how to use a tablet and had fun playing with an iPad. “After each session, she understood a bit more and had gained in confidence,” Kieron says. “I’d like to think that I’ve enriched her life a little by showing her how computers can open up a new world for her. That’s the real benefit of being a Digital Champion; it’s an experience I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who felt they had the skills and time to commit to helping others in their local community.”

So far across London over 60 L&Q staff members and resident volunteers have got involved to become Digital Champions and help their neighbours through regular one-to-one sessions in public places like UK Online Centres and local Libraries—but L&Q is still keen to recruit more.   

Participants are taught important basic computer skills such as setting up an email account, finding information using Google, online shopping and banking, talking to family and friends for free using Skype,  researching family history or enjoying another hobby online.

The Digital Champions have access to over 400 online training guides and a peer-to-peer support forum, allowing each learning session to be tailored to the individual learner’s needs.

For more information about the scheme and how to get involved visit http://www.lqgroup.org.uk/services-for-residents/about-landq/investing-in-neighbourhoods/digital-champions/  or call the L&Q Digital Champion co-ordinator on 07940 062842.

Prince DC