Wigan's TechMates helping hundreds more residents stay safe online
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Figures released for Safer Internet Day show a significant rise in the number of locals who have been able to access support with online skills.
Regular TechMate Tea Parties, where unsure net users can drop-in for help with all kinds of tech issues, now take place in nine different locations all across the borough – with 788 people attending a total of 168 events in 2023.
Meanwhile, the council-led Digital Communities Partnership has grown to include 29 active partner organisations; assisting a further 1,469 adults last year and signposting 758 individuals to additional digital training and support.
Wigan Council’s cabinet portfolio holder for finances, resources and transformation Coun Nazia Rehman said: “Whether it’s shopping, banking, booking a holiday or just staying in touch with friends and family, more and more elements of our everyday lives are happening online, so it’s vital our residents have the digital skills, knowledge and confidence to stay safe and thrive.
“As well as bridging the digital divide through initiatives such as our Tablet Lending Library and Databank, we’re committed to promoting internet safety and helping residents to steer clear of scammers and our amazing TechMates are a massive part of this.
“Whenever a resident isn’t feeling confident about something online they can drop-in to one of our Tea Parties and speak to a friendly face who has the expertise to help.
“Our TechMates will also signpost residents to other services such as Learn My Way, which offers free online courses for beginners, and they can also provide remote support to people who are unable to leave their homes – helping them stay connected and build their confidence with technology.
“We were able to increase the number of Tea Parties by a massive 91 per cent last year and we’ll be expanding even more in 2024 with new regular sessions in local residential care settings and community venues.
“Our Digital Communities Partnership also continues to go from strength-to-strength with a rising number of local organisations teaming with us to create a bright digital future for our borough through upskilling residents and empowering people of all ages to explore the digital world.”
Local volunteers have been at the heart of the TechMates expansion, giving up a combined 390 hours of their spare time last year to help those who are less tech-savvy.
Seven of the nine regular Tea Parties are now also exclusively volunteer-led.
Sarah Platt, who hosts weekly drop-ins at Ashton Library, said: “Internet safety is the biggest thing for me; I like knowing that people are safe online.
"There’s a lot of bad things out there and people who are vulnerable or new to the digital age need help to be safe.
“I’d highly recommend being a TechMate. You don’t need to know everything; even if you know just a little bit about something that you’re passionate about it can take you miles!”
To find your nearest TechMate Tea Party or learn more about TechMates and the Digital Communities Partnership visit Wigan.gov.uk/DigitalWigan.