Digital Inclusion: You hold the keys to IT literacy

by Andy Robinson, Change Manager

During Sopra Steria’s Community Matters Week, held every October, my colleagues and I used our company volunteering time to provide an IT Gadget Surgery at Pinner Library in the London Borough of Harrow. The objective was to share basic IT skills with members of the local community. When we arrived at the library we were greeted with open arms by the library staff – some of whom had already brought in their own laptops so we could help them – as well as regular library users!

The lost generation and Radio Harrow

A journalist from the local radio station interviewed my colleagues Darren Kampta and Jutta Fischer. The interview was part of a report explaining how older people are having difficulty keeping up with changing technology and how companies like Sopra Steria can help. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of people, particularly the elderly, are losing touch with modern life and modern ways of socialising due to technology. The digital divide and digital exclusion are names given to the gap in terms of usage of information and communication technology (ICT)[1].

 The government’s Digital Inclusion Task Force has estimated that 6 million people in the UK (13%) are both socially and digitally excluded[2]. This has been proven to cause economic and social inequality, as 90% of jobs in the UK now require basic IT literacy[3]. From this research it is clear that having a basic understanding of IT and current technology is becoming more and more necessary in order to be a functioning member of today’s society.

It’s a small world

The most memorable person I helped was an older gentleman who had come prepared with a long list of issues he had with his laptop. One by one we crossed off the items and he noted down how to resolve the issue for future use. During the time I spent with him, I discovered we had a common interest in badminton. He had coached badminton up to England international level and it turned out one of the people he had coached, a former international player, was my badminton coach (and friend) from university. It was a great feeling knowing that I was now helping some who had indirectly influenced my life.

The Surgery

 The tasks brought to our team of five IT surgeons differed in complexity. These ranged from attaching a photo from a digital camera to an email and sending it, to fixing Microsoft Licencing issues. We were very happy with the uptake and there was barely a moment we weren’t busy! By the end of the day we’d helped tens of people with their technology queries. Although the tasks may have appeared simple to us, they could make a real difference to their lives by enabling them to share memories with their families, stay connected with their friends, or even to stay safe online. The day taught me to be patient when it comes to teaching people these new skills that perhaps aren’t as obvious to them as they are to us. I became much better at breaking down my explanations into logical steps and realised that in order for learning to take place, I had to get them doing the task themselves. The Pinner Library staff asked us if we would do something like this again in the future. We unanimously agreed that we would like to be involved in a project such as this again.

Community Matters Week 2017 at Harrow Council

Our time at the library was but one of dozens of charitable events undertaken by Sopra Steria staff as part of the company-wide Community Matters Week – one week every year focused on making a positive impact for our communities and charities around the UK. Other activities included The Marathon Challenge – a charity race against Harrow staff, The Barber Shop – two charity head shaves, Wear It Pink (People In Need of Kindness) day and the highly successful Harrow Bake Off/Bake Sale. Our team raised £2,340 for charity – one half of this went to The Mayors Special Appeal – this year it’s Harrow Women’s Centre and Harrow Law Centre, with the other half going to MacMillan Cancer Research.

Lessons learned

 I found that the volunteering at Pinner Library was highly rewarding. I felt as though I had really made a difference to the confidence of several people who had been struggling with technology. All five of us predicted prior to the day that we would mostly be helping older people, and the reasons are obvious: schools and workplaces now teach a basic level of IT literacy which their generation missed out on. Most of us take these skills for granted but we are surrounded by technical devices in everyday life and it is now essential for our social circles. The government’s Digital Inclusion Strategy has an aim to get everyone who can be digitally able, online by 2020[2]. After volunteering myself, this is a topic I now feel much more strongly about, and I will play my part to make sure digital inclusion is possible within the UK.

See more information about Sopra Steria’s work with communities.

References:

[1] 21st Century Challenges, 2013. What is digital divide.

[2] Gov.uk, 2014. Government digital inclusion strategy.

[3] Hilbert, M., 2013. Technological information inequality as an incessantly moving target: The redistribution of information and communication capacities between 1986 and 2010. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology., I(65), p. 821–835.

I’m a beekeeper – what’s your super power?

On Friday 23rd of June I used my Sopra Steria Volunteering Day to support the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA) at the Royal Highland Show. The SBA was setup in 1912 as the national beekeeping body in Scotland. Sopra Steria provides me with one day’s paid volunteering, as part of our Community commitments, so with the SBA being a charity I decided to use my volunteering day to help.

Every year the SBA have a massive “Honey Marquee” at the Royal Highland Show which is a 4 day event – it’s Scotland’s biggest agricultural event with over 1,000 trade exhibitors and 6,500 animals. In the Honey Marquee alone, the SBA plan for around 10,000 visitors per day and require teams of stewards to help. So I put my name down for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

SR-Outside-Honey-MarqueeAll of the stewards were avid beekeepers, ranging from people like me, i.e. beginners keeping a couple of hives in the back garden, through to bee farmers with hundreds of hives and decades of experiences.

We rotated our teams around the various sections of the hive covering:

  • Candle making – beeswax of course!
  • Observation hives – we had 3 glass sided hives with bees foraging outside at the show

Education – a “touchy feely” area where people can handle hive parts, honey  comb and a honey extractor.

Here’s a view inside the Honey Marquee:

SBA-Honey-Marquee-2017

How did I get into Beekeeping?

readman-family-beekeepersOne of my good friends from school has kept bees for many years and I’d always had “beekeeping” in my bucket list of things to. So when he said he had a spare colony for me I thought – “how difficult can this be?”. I took my first colony with his telephone support, joined the Edinburgh branch of the SBA and did their beginners evening course. My (then) 8 year old daughter came along to the Saturday practical sessions too, so this has become a bit of a family hobby.

2016 was a bad year weather-wise and we didn’t get any honey, but in May this year we took our first crop of 13 jars:may-honey-crop-wide

Bees and our environment

As you will have heard in the news, bees have had a bit of a bad time with a variety of factors leading to colonies failing, this includes Varroa Mites and Foul Brood. We’re all hoping that the Asian Hornet doesn’t take hold in the UK.

Discover more about Sopra Steria’s sustainability commitment and community activities.

Useful Links:

Three things I learned volunteering for The Prince’s Trust

 Sopra Steria is a proud Patron of
The Prince’s Trust – a UK youth charity that helps 13 to 30 year olds get into jobs, education and training.  We encourage our employees to be volunteers for The Trust to help run and lead programmes that inspire and empower these young people to realise their potential.

I recently volunteered to deliver a
‘Find A Work Placement’ workshop to help participants take responsibility for developing and raising their skills.  Here are some things I learned from this challenging and rewarding experience:

The participating young people wanted to make a difference to their lives

The young people participating in the workshop showed real potential to succeed.  They engaged in the workshop activities (including a role play where I played  an employer they were approaching for a work placement), listened to and positively acted on the feedback given and shared in celebrating success.  They demonstrated the right qualities we all need when looking for work.

The Prince’s Trust team were fantastic

The materials and support I received from The Trust Team were always practical and useful.  As a volunteer drawing from my own professional skills and experience, I was rightly expected to make the workshop a success; The Trust helped me by providing a structured approach and suggested methods for facilitating the session with clear, specific learning objectives for those participating. This empowered me to run the session effectively with other volunteers while giving us room to share our own relevant insights and experiences throughout the day. In addition the onsite Trust Team helped participants engage in the workshop activities constructively using a positive, collaborative approach.

It was challenging and personally rewarding for me

Like all Trust volunteers, it’s intrinsically satisfying to see young people get value from your engagement.  The experience also helped develop my own business skills as I needed to adapt my working style to succeed as a workshop facilitator.  By the end of the day I had helped participants create their own individual action plans to find work placements – a positive next step in them taking responsibility for unlocking their own potential.

Find out more information about The Prince’s Trust and how you can get involved.  And if you have any thoughts on this topic, leave a reply below or contact me by email.