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DigiSkills - Member in Focus #29 - Community Calling

DigiSkills – Member in Focus #29

Interview with Imelda Ward from DigiSkills

Tell us a bit about yourself and/or your organisation.

DigiSkills is committed to assisting people to attain the level of digital literacy needed to operate in a fast paced society. We aim to bridge the digital divide by providing courses and workshops which are taught by dedicated and experienced digital experts. DigiSkills works with learners and organisations to implement teaching strategies which enable every student find a path to success.
We provide assisted learning in an environment that will prepare learners for the path ahead. Our classes incorporate traditional learning styles in addition to hands-on experiences. Our expert consultants come from a range of backgrounds but the key focus is on learners success – that is our priority.
To support our inclusive community, we provide a personal approach to individuals and businesses, tailoring learning methods to each student’s (learner’s) needs.

How well have you/your organisation adapted to the pandemic?

From the outset we were fully adapted as digital skills consultants. We had the capacity, skills, facilitators and programmes to continue the work we had been delivering in conjunction with Good Things Foundation and Google.org.
We have delivered training to over 1000 people and organisations ranging from community to corporate to assist with accessing online, providing support to the vulnerable and helping businesses with their digital transformation.
How well have people/organisations in your area collaborated throughout the pandemic?
We have worked as part of the Digital Assist Steering Group for Northern Ireland to work in collaboration with many organisations such as Business in The Community, NICVA, Belfast Met & SERC amongst others to extend the reach and deliver the skills people have been desperately in need of. These have been delivered via whatever means have been accessible, we have flexed to meet these needs via Zoom, Phone support, Teams, Google workspace etc.
Community groups, organisations and individuals have been highly responsive, incredibly collaborative and supportive of one another throughout the pandemic which has been an incredible reflection on the tenacity and willingness to continue to deliver despite multiple barriers and challenges. It has been a very rewarding journey.
What key needs are becoming apparent and/or are likely to arise this year?
Accessibility to devices, WiFi and broadband is the most challenging aspect. This is particularly apparent in rural and socio-economically deprived areas. We are working with charities and other organisations to draw down funding for the hardware, software, dongles and sims to continue to deliver digital skills.
ASK: What do you need, right now, that the members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community may be able to help you with?
Links to those influencing Digital Strategy NI and those involved with policy change as we believe access to internet needs to be lobbied much more effectively. It is a service that has become an integral part of society, those without are limited, disadvantaged and socially and economically isolated – further exacerbating poverty, educational attainment and opportunity.
We additionally require businesses who have old devices that could be donated to community organisations to come forward. Where we can distribute these we can deliver the necessary training.

OFFER: What support are you currently offering and are you open to members of Community Network NI and/or the wider community making contact?

We offer digital training across a huge array of subject areas. At present we have come to the end of the free training but are hoping that further funding will be released to support learners. We can however signpost, advise and offer assistance in digital transformation and assist in the drawing down of funds to implement these changes.

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