What would a digital champion do for your authority?

Yesterday I gave a speech based upon LGiU’s recent Going where the eyeballs are report at the GovDelivery User Conference – #GovD11 on Twitter. One of the recurring issues that came up throughout the day was the lack of clarity across departments as to how to make digital technology work best throughout a whole local authority.

One of the recommendations we make in Going were the eyeballs are is for councils to designate a digital champion who could run informal, shoulder-to-shoulder ‘surgery’ sessions with different people from different departments (even people outside the council?), share ideas and connect new networks of people together.

How would this work exactly? Well the best working example I know of is the Go ON – give an hour initiative being ran as part of the Race Online 2012 campaign. The concept of Go ON is simple –

“we want to encourage people who are confident users of the internet to be Digital Champions by using their skills to help others that aren’t online”.

I have therefore asked Natasha Innocent from Go ON to write a few paragraphs for this blog that explain the work they’re currently doing. Should anyone want to follow this up with Natasha, she can be contacted at natasha@raceonline2012.org.

The Liverpool digital champion network is supporting the aspiration of Liverpool to become a networked city.

Over 1,000 digital champions were recruited over the Give an Hour weekend of 29/30 October – which was a great start but with 25% of the population offline the City is aiming to recruit 5000 digital champions

Research indicates the main reason for being offline, other than affordability, (a big barrier for about 4 million people) is that people have not been convinced that there is anything in it for them. We have been telling them ‘to get online’ for the last 10 years without a clear benefits message, so, perhaps, this is not very surprising.

That’s why a local digital champion network, made up of local people from a wide range of walks of life who are willing to help family, friends, neighbours, colleagues or customers to take their first steps online by tailoring the introduction to the net on an individuals’ passions, information needs or showing how it could help them keep in touch with families and friends, is perhaps the best way of helping someone see the benefits of the web.

A one to one introduction to the net by a trusted intermediary is perhaps the most effective way of encouraging someone to recognise that being online might be worthwhile.

Digital champions can help to introduce and get someone started online from a whole range of situations – we are encouraging everyone to join in because we will only reach big numbers by broadening the approach – a few examples of different types of  digital champions include

  • Merseyside police recruiting digital champions to support older people to feel confident about reporting crime online.
  • Digital Champion Liverpool cabbies using the Liverpool App on ipads in their cabs to show people they can access information about opening hours for example, or make bookings online. A real hook for someone looking to find out information about he city there and then.
  • Digital champions in Brighton libraries are supporting people to go online so that they can access council and government services.
  • Digital champions recruited by the Liverpool chamber of commerce are helping to increase free public wifi access by providing wifi access in reception areas or pledging to ensure all their workforce from cleaner up to MD are offered support to gain digital skills.
  • Digital champion school children in Notre Dame School are pledging to support their grandparent, or older offline family member, to go online for the first time

As you can see from the examples above the network is a broad one and we will be working with Liverpool over the next 6 months to learn lessons on how to ensure the network remains active and engaged.

A number of Go ON places have developed Facebook pages to provide local digital champions with a forum where they can get in touch with each other; share ideas and arrange specific events and campaigns.

GoONitsliverpool is an example other people could borrow to get their own Go ON place started.