Stockport Council


Legacy and Progression

Across Stockport, many adults still cannot access online products or services or use simple digital technology. People who are offline are missing out opportunities to progress fully with education or work, as jobs increasingly require some digital skills. Without digital, it’s harder to stay in touch with family and friends or join in with community activities that combat social isolation and with the cost-of-living crisis a priority for us all, people who are offline miss out of benefits, support, advice, and savings on essential items.

The pandemic had a profound effect on motivation to get online as more people needed digital to help them shield, work, complete schoolwork, order shopping and prescriptions online, bank, find out information or keep up with family. Yet lockdown led to the closure of many digital access points, such as libraries and community buildings, impeding access to devices, data and opportunities to improve digital skills. Our DigiKnow partnership helped us get things moving quickly, as our readymade network of community groups and volunteers responded with speed and compassion in quickly assessing changing needs and adapting our delivery accordingly.

The cost of living crisis adds to the challenges of getting online for many of our most vulnerable communities. As a result, we are changing our approach to help people as much as possible. Starting Point, working closely with Good Things Foundation, was one of the first organisations in the country to promote access to the national databank, six months ahead of other areas in the UK. We are also maximising social value opportunities to increase access to free or affordable IT equipment for those most in need. Alongside this, we offer targeted digital inclusion support at trusted venues in Lancashire Hill, where 22% of the population are not online, and many do not want to be online. Key to this is recruiting Digital Champions from the local community, for instance, at food banks and local pantries, maximising the trusted faces at local places approach.


We started our digital inclusion journey in earnest, in 2017, making a commitment that no one would face inequalities because they lacked the skills, devices or data to get online. Tackling digital exclusion is about much more than the shift to online services; for us, it’s about creating a fairer Stockport where everyone has equal opportunity, and no one is left behind.

In April 2018, we formed Stockport’s Digital Inclusion Alliance of public, commercial, education, community and voluntary sector partners, with the dual aims of:

  • Ensuring everyone who lives and works in Stockport can benefit from digital resources
  • Motivating and encouraging people to choose digital.

By bringing together partners who share our commitment to digital inclusion, we maximise impact and share assets, resources, expertise and learning. This collaboration in turn improves the resources available to people in all of our local communities, helps us reach more people and maximises value for money.

Stockport Council invested initially in two key partnerships:

  1. Good Things Foundation to manage the Alliance
  2. Starting Point Community Learning Partnership to develop and deliver digital inclusion support, learning and campaigns on the ground.

Our collective plan was a self-sustaining digital inclusion movement in Stockport we called ‘DigiKnow’. By using a ‘trusted faces in local places’ strategy, we harness the reach of community groups and organisations and their trust among our communities to create a franchise of partners with embedded Digital Champions. This ‘train the trainer’ approach helps us to reach the most marginalised and digitally excluded people.

DigiKnow also supports the digital capabilities of small businesses and the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) sector, and specifically helping the VCFSE sector to build digital support into their social mission and equip them to support the people who need the most help with digital.

Data and Insight

We use a variety of data sources on opportunity and deprivation, plus insight from our partners. eg locations of loans from the device library. We have a Digital Inclusion dashboard which draws together multiple sources such as benefit claimants, provision of social housing, indices of deprivation. The qualitative intelligence that grassroots organisations provide about communities help us to spot emerging trends and identify needs based on location and gaps in provision. We also plan to enhance the training available to all Digital Champions so they can signpost people to the relevant cost of living information in their area. We have invested in developing a single access point for local information, advice and support around the Cost of Living Crisis.


Level of Impact

Reach: DigiKnow has helped over 47,000 individuals to get online or improve their digital confidence and skills, and the numbers continue to increase. We achieve this through evolving initiatives to meet changing needs and circumstances.

Single Point of Contact: Our DigiKnow web pages, online directory and calendar of activities provide residents with one reference point for up-to-date localised information on digital inclusion support. They help community organisations signpost people to local support and help us identify gaps in provision. We also created an interactive map of public Wi-Fi provision for DigiKnow partners.

Growth: The alliance has grown from 5 initial partners to a network of 77 organisations from the public, private and third sectors and we continue to attract new community organisations and mutual aid groups, and partners from the business and educational sectors.

Community Power: We maximise the impact by recruiting and training Digital Champions to run digital skills sessions or provide one-to-one support. Starting Point run monthly training and also retrained many during the pandemic to deliver support over the phone or remotely.

We have worked with Starting Point to launch ‘DigiKnow Friends’ training. Recognising that everyone in a frontline role, including Elected Members, council contact centre staff and community volunteers, has a role to play in helping people use digital services, DigiKnow Friends training equips people to recognise digital exclusion and know where in Stockport to signpost people for support. Some participants go on to do further training to be Digital Champions. We are encouraging all Stockport Council Members and employees to undertake DigiKnow Friends training, and we hope to make this mandatory. So far, 348 people have attended DigiKnow friends and Digital Champion training.

Covid Support: Early in the first lockdown, we created new web content to help others do things online, or improve their digital skills, with guides on how to order prescriptions, shop online and video call.

When the need to be online was most critical, the challenge was finding ways to help people get online and do things online without face-to-face teaching. Starting Point retrained 30 Digital Champions to support residents remotely. By the end of May, the remote Digital Champions had already provided 78 remote group sessions, 468 remote 1-1 sessions and supported 17 VCFSE groups to reach service users remotely.

We launched the DigiKnow Helpline and promoted this widely as a source of help to get online. The Helpline was used by individuals needing support, by the VCFSE sector and by local organisations who needed help using new remote working technology. The Helpline is still up and running and has managed over 16,000 calls and messages to date.

We donated tablets to all Stockport care homes. We distributed over 1,100 devices to residents, through a range of local, national and GM donation schemes. Anyone receiving a device donation was also offered Digital Champion support.

We launched the DigiKnow Device Lending Library.

DigiKnow Device Lending Library: With funding from the council’s Stockport Local Fund, Starting Point set up the DigiKnow Device Lending Library, the first of its kind nationally. Digital Champions provide remote or in person support with each device loan. With the library established and the need for device loans sustained beyond lockdown, we continue to provide access to cheaper data and devices and have made over 10,000 loans to date.

National Impact: DigiKnow partners came together to influence telcos at a GM and national level through Operation WiFi. Digiknow partners were prominent in the campaign to donate unused data allowances that led to the creation of the National Databank.

Sky Up Digital Hub – in 2023 Sky partnered with Age UK Stockport and Stockport Council to open the first Sky Up Digital Hub in Greater Manchester, in Edgeley. The Hub provides access to digital devices, free Sky wifi connection and regular digital skills workshops, run by volunteers, to support over 1000 people in the local community.

Improving digital confidence and skills opens up new opportunities for people. DigiKnow partners know those facing digital exclusion often face multiple challenges: they’re more likely to be unemployed, have lower educational attainment and/or a disability, and there is a strong correlation between digital exclusion and social and financial exclusion. They have experience in reaching these groups, and we leverage this to help people benefit from the digital world as it relates to employment, social connection and health and wellbeing. DigiKnow also addresses access to affordable devices and connectivity. Stockport libraries and our main Contact Centre reception have free-to-use devices and Wi-Fi and many of our libraries have a selfservice access system, allowing residents to use devices and Wi-Fi outside of staffed hours.


Additional Evidence or Information

Personal stories that illustrate the impact of gaining digital skills can be more persuasive than statistics in growing the number of partners and Digital Champions:

“This has transformed my life and given me a new focus. I turn up to the classes with a smile on my face.”

“I think I will feel less on my own now. I can call friends and family. This will make a big difference to me”.

“Having the device has had a big impact on my life. It has made things a lot easier for me, and I can use it as and when I need to.”

“I’m in my 80s now, so I don’t get out as much as I used to. I feel like this has opened things up again for me. Everything is on a computer these days.”

“This laptop is incredibly helpful. It’s a big weight off my shoulders.”