Local organisations will be asked to play an important role in supporting the community by signing up to a Digital Inclusion Charter. Government will lead by example by encouraging its staff to help their friends, families, colleagues and neighbours to develop their digital skills.
The intention is to tackle digital exclusion and help to reduce social isolation and its associated health risks, particularly among older people.
This work will build on the progress being achieved through Government’s Digital Strategy, which outlines plans to use technology to further enhance public services.
The Digital Inclusion Strategy also seeks to work alongside digital initiatives being successfully rolled out by local authorities, businesses, charities and voluntary organisations.
Schemes such as public Wi-Fi, free Wi-Fi and devices in libraries and community centres, drop-in sessions and volunteer-led support and training sessions all contribute to raising awareness and helping people to learn in a way that suits them.
New partnerships and projects will be developed to break down the barriers that people face in terms of skills, access to equipment and broadband, trust and motivation.
It is recognised that getting online can benefit people financially and socially, helping them to keep in touch with friends and family and to access training and employment opportunities, leisure activities, research and information.
The strategy, which will be reviewed annually, creates a framework for digital inclusion to ensure that everyone who wants to can get online.
Policy and Reform Minister John Shimmin MHK said: ‘The Digital Inclusion Strategy sets out our commitment to help tackle digital exclusion. It reflects the challenges Government and the Island continue to face in enabling more people to gain maximum benefit from the opportunities digital technologies can offer.’
The Government is asking local organisations to sign up to the five principles in its Digital Inclusion Charter -
- Working together
- Supporting Island-wide schemes and pilot projects
- Ensuring that staff and volunteers have an opportunity to learn and develop their digital skills
- Encouraging staff to become digital champions
- Sharing best practice and measuring performance
Within Government, the Cabinet Office will be promoting digital skills and training and looking for staff to volunteer to help others develop their digital skills.
Charities, local authorities and businesses have been involved during the development of the strategy and are urging people to get involved.
Kurt Roosen from the Manx ICT Association said: ‘As we progress the Government Digital Strategy we do have to be mindful that not everyone has the same capabilities. We need to ensure that no one is left behind. This Charter illustrates that we have a collective desire to ensure that everyone is given access and opportunity to engage at their own pace.’
Jackie Betteridge, Chair of the Council of Voluntary Organisations, added: ‘Government services must be made easily accessible to all regardless of age, disability, wealth or location. This means we need to think about costs as well as skills for people who want to get online but can’t, and also provide people with good alternatives to online services where needed.’
Keith Fitton of Leonard Cheshire Disability continued: ‘People who have physical disabilities are statistically more likely to be socially isolated, dependent upon other people and financially deprived. Simple digital access tools and mentoring can enable a person to become an active member of the wider community or simply use technology to control their environment and gain independence. Investment in appropriate digital inclusion and support to make the most of the tools can both improve a person’s quality of life and also offer cost effective alternatives to traditional care.’
Stuart Nelson at Barclays commented: ‘Barclays recognises the importance of digital to many people’s lives. With our Digital Eagles and Digital Driving Licence we have been at the forefront of developing the digital skills of people in the Isle of Man and we are now looking forward to working with a wider community of partner organisations on the Digital Inclusion Strategy. We share a common goal: to ensure that anyone that wants to learn more about the digital world has the opportunity to do so.’