It works to provide digitally excluded households with devices, skills training and technical support so they can get online.
Phase 1 of the scheme was set up in response to coronavirus and with £5 million worth of investment. It has already reached 9,000 people on low incomes throughout Scotland who are without an internet connection and have been shielding from COVID-19.
They have each been provided with an appropriate internet enabled device (Chromebook or iPad), access to connectivity (a mobile hotspot and 12 months of data) and paired with a ‘digital champion’ to develop their skills and confidence online.
The Borders’ programme is being co-ordinated through the Community Planning Partnership and has seen the 217 devices allocated through Phase 1 being distributed by the Council, Scottish Borders Housing Association, Eildon Housing, Berwickshire Housing Association, Live Borders and a number of third sector organisations including Ability Borders, Borders Care Voice, Interest Link Borders and Health in Mind.
The Council itself received 48 devices and then trained 28 staff to act as digital champions and assist recipients.
This support is available for six months and is delivered remotely and at a pace that suits the recipient with a focus on mastering digital foundations and building confidence online.
The second phase of the project has now been launched with £15 million in funding. This aims to reach around 22,000 households across Scotland and will include families with pre-school and school age children and young care leavers on low incomes.
Eligible families and care leavers across the Borders are currently being identified with the aim of being able to deliver devices and commence training from November onwards.
Councillor Robin Tatler, Executive Member for Community Development and Localities, said: “Among the many challenges that COVID-19 is bringing us, ensuring people have access to the information they need is critical.
“The internet continues to be a lifeline for many, making this scheme vitally important for those among us for whom digital access would otherwise not be possible.
“The initial phase has meant that some especially vulnerable people who were shielding have been able to learn new skills such as how to make video calls with their friends and family thereby helping to reduce their social isolation. Recipients have also been able to increase other digital skills such as exploring new hobbies and interests but also to research and potentially apply for employment opportunities.
“This next phase will reach out to families and care leavers and I would encourage those who are eligible to make the most of all the benefits that being a recipient of the scheme could bring.”
Individuals and families are currently unable to apply themselves to take part in the scheme.
However, anyone who is eligible will be contacted directly to see if they are interested.
More information is available at: www.connecting.scot