Efforts to tackle the digital divide in North Yorkshire will see hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on a range of measures after the cost-of-living crisis has compounded the issue.
North Yorkshire Council is overseeing a programme of work to help ensure more people have online access.
Evidence has emerged that pressures on household budgets amid the high rates of inflation and the dramatic rises in the cost of living have meant that a digital divide is becoming more pronounced.
Many people are unable to afford the technology needed to get online, and there are concerns that they are not learning the necessary skills to embrace the digital era.
Research by the Citizens Advice charity has shown that people are cutting back on the cost of connectivity. A study revealed a million people nationally disconnected their broadband last year due to financial pressures.
More than £800,000 in funding from the Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund is now set to be allocated to help voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations to access resources and training to become ‘digital hubs’ to improve connectivity, support volunteers to become ‘digital buddies’ and increase engagement with communities to use technology.
North Yorkshire Council’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “We are acutely aware of the need to ensure that communities across the whole of North Yorkshire are given online access so that they can thrive in the modern digital age.
“A great deal of work has already been undertaken, but we are committed to making sure everyone has access to the technology and skills that they need.”
Ahead of Get Online Week from October 16, an effort is under way to provide support for communities. North Yorkshire Council is calling on more volunteers to become digital buddies to help people to get online through support via community and voluntary organisations and the county’s libraries.
Among those already volunteering is Paula Waggoner, 56, who moved to North Yorkshire from Colorado with her family two years ago due to work commitments. She jumped at the chance to volunteer as a digital buddy with the Nidderdale Plus team.
“A digital buddy was not something I had ever thought I would be doing with my limited technical ability,” she said. “But I decided I could use my own experience of using devices to pass on some skills to those that are struggling – empowering people to do things we take for granted.”
The council is celebrating volunteers through its Team North Yorkshire campaign. Find out more at www.northyorks.gov.uk/TeamNorthYorkshire
Learn more about Get Online Week at https://uk.getonlineweek.com