Digital Inclusion is a STAR for Supporting Communities

 Rosemary, Stef, and Sally represented the project at the Awards ceremony in Dublin.

Rosemary, Stef, and Sally represented the project at the Awards ceremony in Dublin.

Supporting Communities brought home the Aontas Star Award for Digital Inclusion from an all-island awards ceremony in Dublin on Monday.

The STAR Awards (Showcasing Teamwork, Awarding Recognition) are an awards initiative coordinated by AONTAS as part of the annual Adult Learners' Festival to acknowledge the fantastic work undertaken by adult learning initiatives throughout Ireland. The awards celebrate the positive contribution that these initiatives make to individual adult learners, local communities, and our wider society.

Stephanie Brolly, Supporting Communities Digital Inclusion Officer, has been working to bring the benefits of going online to communities throughout Northern Ireland for over 5 years, and her hard work is showing some impressive results. Ever since partnering with the Department of Finance’s Go On NI initiative in 2012, Supporting Communities have trained over 1200 people in basic digital skills.

Rosemary McCaw and Sally McDonald accompanied Stef to the awards ceremony on Monday having been shortlisted and interviewed for the prize earlier this year. At the interview, Rosemary and Sally told Aontas how learning to use a computer and the internet had changed things for them and the over 50’s group they run in Coleraine. Starting with the basics, these learners progressed through a series of courses including 2 OCN qualifications gaining the skills and confidence they needed to put their group online. They have improved communication by emailing minutes of meetings and using their Facebook group page to keep in touch. They are in a better position financially now too by keeping track of finances on a spreadsheet and applying for funding online.

Rosemary has even become a bit of an Internet guru in her neighborhood. “Everyone comes to me now for help with that sort of thing.” she told Aontas. “I went online and got a birth certificate sorted out for my neighbor who needed to apply for an emergency passport – it wouldn’t have come in time if we had applied through the post!” She credits Supporting Communities local approach and Stephanie’s relaxed and friendly teaching style with her success and is delighted to be able to pass her digital skills on to others.

“Supporting Communities have been incredibly successful at providing training, help, and support to those who need it. They continue to show that digital inclusion isn’t about technology. It’s about people: people helping other people to see how the internet can transform their lives. Local, face to face, friendly and supportive – they really do put people at the centre of digital inclusion.”

- Mark Bennett, Digital Transformation Service, Dept. of Finance”

Digital inclusion continues to be a growing area of work for Supporting Communities as more and more people recognise that being digitally literate is a must have skill in order to manage information, communicate, save money, access support and government services. It is an essential tool for modern day citizenship and participation and no one can afford to be left behind.