Over 80 families and individuals in Orkney are now better connected thanks to the first phase of a Scottish Government-funded scheme to get clinically vulnerable people online.
Orkney Islands Council was initially allocated 50 devices – ipads and chromebooks – for onward distribution to eligible people – those shielding/clinically vulnerable, digitally excluded and on low incomes - so they could access services and support and connect with friends and family during the pandemic. Due to demand Orkney was allocated an additional 36.
The OIC’s Community Learning & Development team led on the Connecting Scotland programme locally, working in partnership with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) to allocate devices to 17 different organisations across Orkney who were best able to identify those most at need.
Those individuals were then offered a device with a mobile internet data package, which was delivered to their homes.
A “digital champion” will provide phone and online support for an initial period of six months – after which the project will be evaluated to assess support needed longer term. Training and support for digital champions is being coordinated by SCVO and will be delivered through local authorities and third sector bodies.
Throughout Scotland 9,000 people will be connected in phase one of the £5 million programme and a further 23,000 will benefit in a £15 million pound phase two, which is being rolled out at present. The numbers to benefit in Orkney in the second tranche are still to be announced.
Orkney CLD manager Kerry Spence said: “Access to the internet can be a vital lifeline to many during these challenging times, and initiatives such as these are a great help in making this a reality.
“The allocation in Orkney in phase one will make a real difference and we expect further announcements soon on additional assistance on getting even more people in the county connected.”
The latest investment, part of the Connecting Scotland programme Phase 2, will prioritise disadvantaged families with children and young people leaving care. These families will also get a device, twelve months unlimited data as well as technical support to get online safely and securely.
Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “It has never been more important to be connected and online. It enables us to access information about how to stay safe and healthy during Covid-19, keep in touch with friends and family, and study or work.
“I am therefore very pleased to be able to extend our Connecting Scotland programme and tackle the digital divide by reaching over 30,000 households across both phases that are experiencing difficulties with online access.
“The additional £15 million will help thousands of families and young care leavers who could not otherwise afford to get online, making sure they are not further disadvantaged by providing the necessary hardware, data, and skills they need to get connected.
“This builds on £25m investment in devices and connectivity which will support around 70,000 school pupils.”