The importance and impact of Digital Volunteering during Covid-19
I started my job with the Wales Co-operative Centre one week before the lockdown. I wouldn’t recommend starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic but there couldn’t be a more interesting time to work on a programme that is focused on helping the people of Wales get online. My ‘Volunteer Co-ordinator’ job with Digital Communities Wales is a new post and I wanted to write something to mark Volunteers Week which starts on the 1st June.
Digital Communities Wales – Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being funded by the Welsh Government, has been working successfully across the country for many years to help get people online. My colleagues are all working hard at the moment to provide advice, training and support to organisations working with some of the most isolated and vulnerable people in Wales. The pandemic has made our daily lives different in so many ways, but one clear and significant transformation has been how many of us have moved more of our lives online. Many people now work, socialise, shop, connect with people, find information, manage our health, keep entertained, manage our money, and talk to our loved ones online. For those people in Wales who were not already online, this transformation may mean that they are being left behind.
The recent Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2020, found that 3.6 million people in the UK are completely offline. In Wales 50% of the population had low or very low digital skills and Wales stood 11% behind the UK average in terms of digital skills. People with low digital skills are far more likely to be aged over 70. The Index also links low digital skills with having a low income, citing that the least digitally engaged people are spending an average of over £348 more on utilities per year.
Throughout the lockdown there have been so many inspiring examples of people helping their neighbours and their community in so many different ways. One incredibly important way that people have been helping others during the lockdown, and one that I think often goes unrecognised, is supporting family and friends to get online. Families helping older relatives to set up video calls enabling them to see loved ones they might not have been able to see for months. Friends helping each other to join virtual community groups, church services, choirs and quizzes. Neighbours helping each other to set up online shopping and prescription services to help keep healthy and well. Without people volunteering their time and their skills, we don’t stand a chance of reaching the millions of people currently offline. There are so many people showing so much patience and perseverance and kindness. They are all a vital part of taking everyone in Wales with us on this move towards a stronger and more digital country.
This Volunteers Week, Wales Co-operative Centre and Digital Communities Wales is saying ‘Thank You’ to all the digital volunteers across Wales making such an important difference. When we share our digital skills we can make a huge difference to someone’s life.
For more information on Digital Volunteering please contact: