On the 19th July the iNetwork convened the Digital Inclusion Partnership for the summer meeting. The meeting was hosted on the hottest day of the year so far, but was still well attended by members across the public sector and beyond.

Liz Chapman, Online Services and Inclusion Officer at Wigan Council, began proceedings by updating on the work of Digital Wigan. Liz attended the summer partnership in 2021, following Wigan Council winning an iNetwork innovation award for their Tech Mates programme.  Liz stated Tech Mates was set up in 2020 as a response to the pandemic, the programme has positively developed in its first two years. Liz highlighted that they have created eLearning and an AQA Tech Mates qualification, which both help further embed the programme in the area. Another key element of Tech Mates is the bespoke one-to-one support provided to individuals to support upskilling on digital devices. Liz shared an inspirational case study video of support provided to Stephen, who via the support provided by the Tech Mates programme, learnt how to use WhatsApp and manage his household bills online.

In addition to Tech Mates, Liz also updated on their successful tablet lending scheme launched in 2021. As part of the scheme digitally excluded individuals can be referred by a partner to receive a device and further support.  Wigan provide a whole range of support and training, visit their website www.wigan.gov.uk/digitalwigan to learn about what they offer.

The second presentation of the session was delivered by Margaret Asquith, Integrated Voluntary Services Project Lead at Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB and Ian Singleton Managing Director at Digital Gaps. The pair discussed the digital volunteer passport scheme which is being rolled out with the support of a number of organisations in the South Cumbria region. Margaret began by outlining the vision and why they had begun developing digital volunteer passports. Margaret explained the aim of the scheme is to improve the volunteering experience for both the organisation and the volunteer. The use of digital technology will simplify the recruitment process and enable volunteers to showcase their experience.

Ian continued and explained the technical aspects of the digital system and data management. Ian discussed the apps and plugins that were integrated into the system to ensure it was user friendly. Ian then went on to discuss all the different capabilities of the system, highlighting how the system can help simplify the on boarding and management of volunteers, reducing the need for complex and difficult to manage spreadsheets. The system Id checks volunteers and then allows them to select from a range volunteering opportunities uploaded by organisations within South Cumbria, whilst protecting personal data from the user.

Margaret finalised the presentation by discussing the next steps noting the system is currently in a private beta stage with 12 organisations in South Cumbria. They intend to evaluate the project via a survey of the organisations involved which will in turn be generated into a short report highlighting the potential of the service to be rolled out in South Cumbria and beyond.