DV tackles "great social challenge of our age"

21st June 2017

Digital Voice has marked its ninth year since the social enterprise was founded with an Annual Report that includes pictures and case studies to illustrate the wide range of work undertaken.

The need for digital skills – and the benefits of support to get online - has continued to be demonstrated by research. Many parts of the population suffer the consequences of being on the wrong side of the digital divide. Key statistics include:

- 5.9 million adults in the UK have never used the internet

- 4.1 million adults who live in social housing are offline

- 27% of disabled adults (3.3 million) have never used the internet

- Between 75% and 90% of jobs require at least some computer use

- Offline households are missing out on estimated savings of £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online.

The importance of the issue for older people has been publicised with increased urgency, due to demographic change and the inevitable growth of that sector of the population. More than half of people aged 75+ live alone, and more than half report loneliness and isolation. There are serious health consequences, for both mental and physical health. Nearly a third of older people have limited contact with family and neighbours – 11% have contact less than once a month.2

“People’s feelings of loneliness go down by 80% when they’re online and their confidence goes up by 60%. When you are talking about some of the most disenfranchised and excluded groups in society; those are interesting and important numbers.” Martha Lane Fox, Digital Inclusion Champion.

Clients ranged from housing companies and arts departments to libraries, community centres and groups of adults with learning disabilities, and partnerships have been developed with heritage organisations such as Beamish Museum. Participants have been a diverse mix of ages and abilities. Over the first nine years, Digital Voice has worked with just over 5000 people.

Digital Voice has developed a range of courses and projects tailored for many groups, to assist them to benefit from going online and reducing the risks of isolation. With nearly a decade of expertise in this specialist areas, our social enterprise is working hard and achieving progress. The challenge was recently described:

  • “Digital participation – helping everyone to get online and maximise the benefits of digital technology – is arguably one of the great social challenges of our age.”
  • Positive responses from participants and commissioners have been a driving force in recent years for Digital Voice, leading to repeat bookings, recommendations to similar organisations and the development by DV of follow-up projects in response to demand. The services on offer from Digital Voice have continued to focus on delivery via tablets, building on the inTouch and iSkill courses and GeoStories projects; these provide an enjoyable and accessible way to use digital media, to create connections between people across time and space.

    In the twelve months to October 2016, the work of participants reached more than 4000 people via screening events, presentations, exhibitions and publication on the internet. Facebook and YouTube have also been used to share project experiences. Just under 300 people participated in our media projects.

    Digital Voice was founded by community media volunteers Julie Nicholson and Olwyn Hocking, and is supported by scores of community partners and funders. Founder Director Olwyn Hocking said: “It’s never been easier for people new to digital to start enjoying getting involved. Whether it’s keeping in touch or saving money shopping or gaining useful skills, even a few hours of support breaks down the barriers and changes people’s lives.”