Let’s Get Online – changing lives through the internet
Of all the people I missed when I first arrived in the UK, my grandmother was probably top of the list.
For me, the thrill of being on the other side of the world and exploring new places was slightly tempered by homesickness for my family.
On a tight budget, calling home frequently wasn’t an option, and particularly not when there was parents, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles and my grandmother to account for. But luckily I started travelling when the internet had become established and email was the default communication tool.
I could keep in touch easily and hear the news from home. And laugh at my grandmother’s inability to control the Caps-Lock button and her frequent complaints that ‘THE COMPUTER IS SHOUTING AND I DON’T KNOW WHY’…
For many of us, being online is second nature and a central part of our lives. But one in six people in Scotland can’t access the internet, due to barriers ranging from lack of know-how, embarrassment, fear or disability. The majority are over-65 or receiving benefits and unemployed; their lack of digital skills exacerbates both isolation and social inequalities.
To tackle this, over six weeks in June and July, our ‘Let’s Get Online’ stands toured Scotland. It was the second year of our roadshow, where we give people free one-on-one help learning how to use the internet and advice on where to join classes and courses.
We visited supermarkets, libraries, community venues and Job Centres at 60 cities, towns and villages from the Borders to the Shetland Islands, helping anybody who dropped in. We supported the roadshow with advertising and publicity, a helpline where people could ask about local courses, and a website with simple learning games and resources.
By the end of it, we had helped 14,000 people learn how to better keep in touch with friends and family, job-hunt, manage bills and banking, and even just watch catch-up TV and find a crossword to do.
The people we helped includes an elderly woman in Aberdeen who told us she was ‘terrified’ of computers and the internet. An hour later, she was using email, browsing websites, and had enrolled in IT classes at her local library.
It includes the Edinburgh woman and the young fisherman in Stornoway struggling to complete online job applications; we helped them complete and submit applications while at the stand. It includes the Clydebank woman starting to lose her sight; we taught her how to change her iPad settings to compensate.
And it also includes the two women in Caol with gifted tablet computers still in their boxes they thought they were ‘too old’ to use. After an hour at our stand, what was the first thing they did? Email their grandkids.