100% Digital Leeds is in running for a national award and it needs your vote

A digital inclusion scheme to connect all the people of Leeds has been nominated for a national award.

Tuesday, 25th August 2020, 4:46 pm
100% Digital Leeds is seeking to help masses of adults who are offline or lack basic digital skills. Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

The city council’s 100% Digital Leeds initiative is in the running for the Digital Skills or Inclusion Initiative of the Year prize.

The council works with groups across the city to reach the tens of thousands of adults who are offline or lack basic digital skills.

Coun James Lewis, deputy leader of Leeds City Council, said: “It makes me proud to see the work that we are doing is being recognised nationally. 100% Digital Leeds is working with the private and voluntary sector as well. It is not just a council service, it is actually something that brings everybody who works on it together.

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The scheme’s tablet lending service has helped many people stay connected during lockdown.

“I think we are the only council or city based organisation on the shortlist. It is a credit to everybody who has worked on this.”

But 100% Digital Leeds needs your help. It is pitted against nine other nominees, and Leeds people are being urged to back it in a public vote so it can progress to the next round of judging. The winner will be announced in October at the Digital Leaders 100 awards ceremony.

Coun Lewis, the executive member for resources, said lockdown had shown just how vital its online mission is. He cited the example of how technology had helped older people keep in contact with their families.

He said: “I think it has shown how essential the work we are doing is, particularly with older people. They are the ones who have been most affected by lockdown, the people who are more likely to be shielding and isolating.

Technology helped people in care homes stay in touch with relatives during the pandemic.

“Older people in care homes have understandably gone into really strict lockdowns as well. But the equipment we have provided, the work we have done to support care homes and the stuff they have done themselves has proved really vital in keeping residents and their families in touch where they can’t physically meet up.

“We have done a huge piece of work during lockdown with care homes and with other groups that look after the elderly. People who were potentially isolated before lockdown and certainly likely to be isolated as lockdown has gone on.”

The scheme has an award-winning digital tablet lending service, which has enabled more than 100 third-sector organisations across the city to the help digitally excluded. It works a bit like borrowing a book from the library. Groups can loan a 4G enabled iPad for a month or longer to help people with online skills.

This is backed up by a host of Digital Champions who help people get to grips with the online world, be it filling in a job or benefits applications. During lockdown training went online as many libraries and other information hubs were shut. 100% Digital Leeds teamed up with mhabitat and CoSpace North to deliver training webinars tailored to groups dealing with people who had a range of issues and barriers. Coun Lewis said: ”There are a range of benefits from being online. It helps people keep in touch. One of our biggest concerns is particularly with older people in Leeds who want to live independently but not be isolated. Technology is a great way people can keep in touch. That was a really valid piece of work before lockdown and ever more so now”

Zoom became a key way to communicate during lockdown. Picture: Sam Wasson/Getty Images.

You can vote for 100% Digital Leeds in the national awards before August 28 at digileaders100.com/digital-skills-or-inclusion-initiative.

BACKGROUND:

The 100% Digital Leeds initiative works on a “furthest first” approach.

This means it is looking for people who are the most likely people to be digitally excluded. This can be because of a range of factors that makes it difficult for them to engage, like poverty, language barriers and learning difficulties.

Leeds City Council works together with a variety of organisations to help these people get the benefits of being online.

Coun James Lewis, deputy leader of Leeds City Council and the executive member for resources, said: “The reasoning behind 100% Digital was to really make sure that as a lot of investment went into digital infrastructure in the city, as a lot of services moved on to digital platforms and also a lot of people’s social lives became a lot more digital - that everybody in Leeds was able to benefit and take part in that.”

He added: “We know that there are parts of the city that don’t have great Internet connectivity. Sometimes that’s the rural areas, but we also found areas with council housing, high-rise blocks and areas with high levels of social housing sometimes fall outside the commercially driven roll out of digital services.”

Coun Lewis said the council’s libraries and community hubs were in the process of reopening safely after the easing of lockdown. People who aren’t online can seek help there. For more see digitalinclusionleeds.com.