New service to help those unable to access Internet

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A NEW service to help those unable to access the internet has been launched by the council amid efforts to open up the world of technology to more residents.

From the start of December, local organisations and professionals will be able to refer digitally excluded adults to loan a tablet device with data free of charge.

After the pandemic shone a light on the isolation caused by digital exclusion, it is hoped that the new service will help residents to connect to the web and become more independent.

Cllr Nazia Rehman, cabinet portfolio holder for digital, said: “Having access to technology can be truly life-changing and so we are very excited to launch the council’s first tablet lending library.

“We know that cost can be a barrier to going digital and so we hope that this service, in which both the tablet loan and connectivity is free of charge, will really help those who participate to discover their digital potential, opening up a whole new world of opportunity to them.

“From Googling to booking doctor’s appointments and applying for jobs, this service is going to be a vital tool in helping people from a variety of different backgrounds to get connected.”

There is no set loan period for the tablets, but residents will receive a renewal reminder each month following their initial referral from a member organisation of the Council’s Digital Community Partnership

Borough-based organisations are encouraged to apply to borrow the tablets to support projects which help to combat loneliness, improve health and wellbeing and encourage creativity among those facing digital exclusion.

Alex Yoxall, activities and engagement officer at Think Ahead Stroke, a member of Wigan Council’s digital community partnership, added: “Here at Think Ahead, especially during the peak lockdown months, we saw first-hand the difficulties that some of the most vulnerable members of our community faced in trying to adapt to this world which is becoming rapidly more digital.

“Alongside Digital Wigan’s TechMates scheme and online digital resources, there has never been a time that residents have had so much support to access these essential online areas.

The tablets are all 4G enabled and the connectivity costs will be covered by the council.

Those accessing the tablet lending library can also learn more about going digital and receive technological support through the TechMates project.