Buddy up to get online

Written by: Karen Jeal

July 16, 2014 - 3:33 pm
Categories: Digital

Life seems to be digital and if parts of it aren’t yet you can guarantee they will be soon.

We’ve got social networks, online banking, shopping, live chat, email and even those black and white fuzzy codes that you can scan and it’ll take you straight to a web page. You name it, it’s there on the World Wide Web.

When I read that eight new people start using the internet every second, that made me think ‘wow – that really is a huge number!’ Yet there’s still only an average of 37 per cent of the world’s population who use the net.*

So we shouldn’t forget those who don’t.

Lots of services, including some state benefits, and businesses are moving online. For people who don’t use the internet there is a risk that they’ll lose out.

I volunteer for a scheme in Lambeth called Digi Buddies. Basically it’s a digital support programme that helps those who aren’t online get online. In Lambeth there are about 26,000 people currently who don’t know how to use the internet. I volunteer once a month as part of the Digi Buddies scheme and find it very rewarding. I have taught people how to set up an email address and then send an email. I have shown them how to look for jobs and then helped them send their CVs off.

I already knew volunteering in this sort of role would require extra patience and understanding but it also needs control. It’s about guiding the learner to what they need to do, explaining things to them at a pace that suits them and a way they understand. It’s all too easy to take the mouse and just do it for them but then they wouldn’t learn anything themselves that way.

Lambeth isn’t the only one trying to bridge the digital divide. You may have seen adverts on TV about Barclays Bank setting up their own version of a similar scheme called ‘Digital Eagles’. They too are helping people get online and not just for banking. If you’ve seen the advert they are helping people connect via Skype. And the Barclay’s website has ‘how to’ videos and details of sessions called ‘Tea and Teach’.

Age UK run a scheme called iTea and Biscuits which teaches older people to get online and they are proving it’s never too late.

The National Housing Federation is supporting digital inclusion with Go ON UK, where they are encouraging people to become digital champions as part of the ‘Go On, Give an hour’ campaign.

We’re all doing the same things and trying new ways of helping people but ultimately that’s what it’s about – helping. So how can you help get someone online? Here are five tips:

#1 – Think about a device and a broadband provider
If you know someone who hasn’t got a computer, tablet or smart phone then why not encourage them to give it a go. Take them to a shop and show them what’s on the market and what the best devices to get are and also help them get online by sorting them out with an internet provider such as BT, Plus Net or Sky. You can even show them price comparison websites to get the best deals.

#2 – Little and often
Take them through one task a week and make sure they write down what they’re doing and keep helping them. You may have to explain things a few times but keep at it. If you’re setting someone up with an email, send them a few to get them used to replying. Don’t try and teach too much in one go. It’s about doing it little and often.

#3 – Keep calm
Patience is vital to helping someone get online. You need to remember they might not ‘get’ it so just be calm and explain things clearly and simply. Even if you have to keep explaining the same things over and over. Also remember that it can be stressful for them too – especially if they click something by accident and panic. So remember to keep your cool. They’re learning and they’ll get it eventually.

#4 – Show them the sites but let them explore
Once you’ve helped them and shown them the basics of getting online – show them some websites and things that they might need to do that will make their life a little easier. For example show them their local council website to help them report things, order things or pay for things online. Show them how to read news on the web, how to order things on Amazon and most important explain ‘Google’. It will open up a world of exploration for them.

#5 – Explain the jargon
You need to make sure you explain the jargon and show what some of it is. We may know what the term ‘Google it’ means but they might not. They might not know what the term ‘web’ or ‘net’ means or what a browser is. It’s about explaining all the terminology and everything to them and when they finally get it, you’ll see so much joy. If you’re like me, when I keep volunteering and with my own family I get little stories of how delighted they are that they managed to open an attachment from an email or that they managed to order and pay for a garden bin online all by themselves, it’s such a rewarding moment.

So whether you’re a business or an individual we must all know at least one person who doesn’t know how to use the internet. So if you’re willing and they are too, why not run through the five pointers above and before you know it they’ll be a web whizz.


* Figures from The Cultureist


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