Exploring the unknown – together
Internet Buddies is run by national volunteering charity CSV, which encourages local citizens to take action in their communities. The project sees volunteers from all walks of life working within their own communities to help older and disadvantaged people to go online for the first time – and then stay online so that they too can enjoy all the benefits of today’s digital world. This might be anything from doing their grocery shopping online, accessing council services or keeping in touch with family members to pursuing a hobby.
"Set up in 2010, the pilot programme in Cornwall now boasts 450 volunteers, who have helped over 8,000 people to get online."
Prioritising practical support
Felicity Ford, Director of CSV Media makes it clear that the project is much more than just getting people online – it’s about providing the continued support required to truly enable individuals.
“The majority of people who are regularly exposed to technology in their daily lives tend to take the basics for granted,” she explains. “But it is mastering these initial steps that give people who may never have touched a computer before the confidence to carry on using the technology to access the internet and discover the positive ways it can impact on their lives.”
As well as strengthening community links, CSV hopes the project will help reduce the social isolation experienced by many older people.
Felicity explains: “We’ve been able to set up buddy groups in community centres, front rooms and village pubs, as well as matching individual learners and volunteers into pairs.”
Radio helps rural dimensions and challenges
CSV chose Cornwall for the pilot project due to its rural dimensions and the challenges faced by its older population – and using the BBC’s local radio network in Devon and Cornwall to recruit buddies proved really successful.
Now established in four regions across England – the South West, South, East Midlands and Yorkshire – the Internet Buddies project has worked with nearly 1,000 groups and continues to benefit from BBC local radio features that further help to promote its activities.
CSV is the UK’s leading volunteering and training charity. CSV's vision is of a society where everyone can participate to build healthy, enterprising, inclusive communities. Funding was provided to support a project designed to get more people across the digital divide, through radio campaigning, trained volunteer Digital Mentors and a team of volunteer Internet Buddies. It promotes the benefits of the internet and provide hands on, one-to-one, face-to-face or remote support and guidance to people who want to get online for the first time or who have already been online but whose online experience has been less than successful.