Posted: 28 September 2017

The Rotherham Digital Inclusion Network is a group of volunteer, partners and agencies working together around the Borough to ensure improved digital inclusion. The network has been facilitating digital inclusion partnership working in Rotherham for 3 years and holds meetings bi-monthly facilitated by Rotherham Federation of Communities.  The meetings are attended by volunteers but also some representation from agencies – for instance Age UK Rotherham and RMBC.

The most constructive periods for the network during the last few years have been when partner agencies have hosted passionate and committed digital inclusion officers to work around Rotherham and with us as a network.  During 2014, Communitas the union employed Pauline Thrower and South Yorkshire Housing Association employed Hannah Bottomley, two enthusiastic members of staff who used to get out there, work in our communities and with our digital champions supporting people to get online and make a difference. For example, Hannah’s IT and cakes sessions in some of our local centres were a real hit with residents.   These posts sadly no longer exist but this type of good practice engaging people in to getting online needs to return and as volunteers, we can help but not do this alone.

At present there seems to be a dearth of practical support on the ground in the Borough and very few partners engaging practically with this agenda (please correct us if we are wrong here).  This is a particular problem as the rollout of universal credit now comes to our town.  The phrases ‘assisted digital’ and ‘digital place’ now require practical support to ensure effective implementation if they are to successfully help our tenants and residents get online.

At their meeting on Tuesday 19th September 2017, Rotherham Digital Inclusion   Network members agreed on  the need for a full time paid coordinator who would facilitate activity on the ground – in sheltered and community centres and our libraries locally. Whichever organisation hosted such a post, the network would provide some guidance and support in this endeavour.  

Rotherham Federation of Communities and the Rotherham Digital Inclusion Network would be happy to work together with partners and funders to make this pressing need become a reality.