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ONS staff take time out from jobs to help people online as digital volunteers

As part of our work for Volunteers’ Week, we’re profiling the efforts of people who help others to do more online in their spare time.

This time, we’re looking at the work of digital volunteers at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

We went along to a Digital Friday session at Newport Central Library, where Rachel and Dave from the ONS were helping people to do more online. Digital Fridays are events that started in Caerphilly, and have since spread to a number of local authority areas. They see digital drop-in sessions take place in numerous libraries, to enable people to walk in off the street with their tech questions.

While we were there, Rachel was helping Kerry-Lynn through a structured learning module. Kerry-Lynn has been coming to the sessions for a number of months and has been on a personal learning journey since starting out as a beginner. Dave helped an older couple who wanted to know how to transfer photos from a memory stick to their desktop and, later on, a man who wanted support with finding documents in relation to a job application through Universal Jobmatch.

Both Rachel and Dave employed a calm and ‘can do’ approach to their volunteering, which put their learners at ease and made their queries possible to resolve. We were told that they are able to volunteer as part of their job for five days per year, with other colleagues helping out as volunteers in a variety of different ways.

I think, for both Dave and Rachel, they wanted to be digital volunteers as they knew that not everyone has the IT skills that they use on a daily basis in their jobs. They appreciate the barriers that some people face when trying to get online, whether through disability, an inability to afford their own equipment, low literacy levels or a lack of confidence to use a computer.

Kate Buchanan from the Newport Library Service told us that the ONS volunteers have been a great help, since the partnership started, and that their involvement helps to sustain the Digital Fridays activities. ONS volunteers cover the different hubs across the Newport area.

You can see ONS staff in our video about digital volunteers.