Croydon Council delivers digital skills to get the older generation online

Croydon resident Lyn Maddix gets to grips with tablet technology Pic: Varun Krishnan

Lyn Maddix is 83 and has just learned how to use a tablet. She’s one of the 3,000-odd Croydon residents who has benefited from a council initiative to teach basic digital skills.

Started last November, the Go ON Croydon programme helps people learn skills like using the internet to find job opportunities, make payments or communicate. What started with one ‘digital zone’ in Croydon Town Hall has now expanded to 13 across the borough — and it’s free.

Maddix has learnt how to use her tablet to send and receive emails. She says: “I came in here to learn how to use the internet and found this useful — the people here are very helpful. I now know how to use the internet to communicate with family and friends.”

Another beneficiary of the initiative, 75-year-old Jacqueline Gregory, doesn’t own a mobile phone or a computer, but she now uses library and council computers to make payments: “You can look up a lot of things on the internet. I make payments, search for gardening advice, and even found a gate that could keep away badgers,” she said.

But it’s not only the elderly person who benefit from this initiative – Anne Sturzaker, Go ON Croydon co-ordinator, said: “You might think that people in the 16-25 age group are all digital natives, but they may not be good with digital skills. They are really good at social media, entertainment and gaming, but many don’t know things like how to organise their emails or how to attach a CV to a job opportunity.”

Sturzaker says the initiative is not set up to drive people online but to “support people to get online and do things like find a job or open a bank account.”

The latest initiative involves recycling and refurbishing around 500 of the council’s old computers and laptops, and distributing them among community organisations to help their clients get digital skills.

Digital Zones have contributed to a significant increase in people with digital skills. Last year, before the programme began, about 30 percent of borough residents did not have digital skills, a figure that has since fallen by 9 percent.

Lewisham Council also launched the Go ON Lewisham programme last year, and is now calling for volunteers to teach digital skills.

If you would like to help out, click here.

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