An initiative aiming to fill the online skills gap and help tackle digital exclusion in the community is to be launched in County Durham.
Voneus, one of the UK’s largest rural broadband specialists, is launching a free four-week course in the villages of Ouston and Perkinsville on internet literacy.
The programmes, which will take place at the Ranch Social Club in Perkinsville and the Ouston Community Centre, focus on providing residents with the skills to connect with their loved ones as well as the wider community online in a safe and easy manner.
Voneus, which provides superfast broadband to Ouston and surrounding areas within County Durham, will also be providing laptops for use during the scheme and have designed the project to address key issues of digital exclusion in the region.
A 2021 report from the Institute for Public Policy Research indicates two in every five residents in north-east England lack the access or ability to engage in digital activity, due to factors including access to devices and connectivity and a lack of skills or confidence.
To maximise teaching effectiveness, places are limited at 12 people per session, with those interested in attending needing to register in advance.
Each week targets a specific area of computer usage, with the first focusing on basics, such as turning a PC on, adjusting the brightness and volume, creating and using an email address, and arranging video calls with family and friends.
The Chester-le-Street Morrisons and the Pelton and Fellrose Medical Group will help lead the second and third weeks of the course, which details how to complete shopping tasks online, arrange GP appointments, and access telehealth services.
The final week of the programme will see the Barclays Digital Eagles discuss cyber security, avoiding common scams, and fraudulent emails and accounts.
Ashleigh James, head of the north-east community engagement team at Voneus, said: “With the festive period right around the corner, this time of the year can often be the most isolating for many of the region’s residents.
“With the pandemic also forcing many traditional services such as booking and attending medical appointments online, digital exclusion has become a significant issue in the region.
“This has been made worse with a slower roll-out of broadband and poor connectivity in the rural areas of County Durham, so we felt it was necessary to help bridge that gap in the communities we work in on a daily basis.”
Perkinsville’s course will run between 12pm and 2pm every Monday from November 15 through to December 6, while the classes at Ouston will operate between 10am and 12pm every Friday from November 19 to December 10.