During COVID-19, our daily tasks such as ordering groceries and talking to loved ones transitioned online, opening up a whole new world for some people who had to learn how to use a tablet or digital platforms.
Recognising the need for a Digital Literacy Program for vulnerable members of the community – and thanks to a 2019-2020 Participation (Digital Communities) Grant from ACT Community Services Directorate – Woden Community Service has recently started an initiative that utilises skilled volunteers to provide one-on-one training on how to use smartphones, tablets and computers.
Woden Community Service also supports people with access to technology through its digital library by loaning a device or data SIM card to access the internet.
Volunteers work with participants for up to three months providing one-on-one support. They can support participants with devices they already own or ones borrowed from their digital library.
Woden Community Service digital literacy mentor John Dyer says access to the internet has been recognised by several countries across the world as critical in terms of the right to expression.
“There are some sections of society that are a part of the ‘digital divide’, which refers to the gap between those who are able to benefit from the internet and those who are not,” he says.
“People who are most affected by digital disadvantage include seniors, adults living with a disability, vulnerable school students and community members needing to access community pantries and crisis support. The Digital Literacy Program is helping to bridge the divide that people face.”
John was 17 years old when he moved to Canberra from Goulburn. A year later, he started volunteering in the community and became involved in volunteering services, including fundraising.
“I was already volunteering with Woden Community Service when the opportunity to be a digital literacy mentor became available,” says the 65-year-old. “I decided to take it since I have been working in the field of information technology for the past four decades, and thought this is an area where I can contribute and help people close to my age enter the digitally connected world.
“The issue with older people is they are getting excluded as a result of more and more services and facilities going online. There are technologies that can help people and they can do their daily tasks such as ordering groceries and books from libraries, etc, online.”
Having donated his time to various volunteering services for nearly five decades, John encourages everyone to volunteer and give back to the community.
“If you have time and are happy to share your knowledge to assist people to help use technology, this is a good program to be involved in,” he says. “You need to have patience and calmness so you can help people confront something they find intimidating. One needs to understand the concepts that may seem fairly basic to you require others some time to grasp.
“Reliability, a commitment to help someone, and understanding what their requirements are to help them achieve those goals are really important.”
If you want to learn more about the Digital Literacy Program, for yourself, a family member or a friend, contact Woden Community Service on 02 6181 2802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to become a volunteer digital literacy mentor, you can use the same Woden Community Service contact details above.