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Digid@k, public ICT learning environments (Digid@k)

Published on: 09/11/2007 Document Archived
The main goal of this project is to provide tools and advice to those groups of people not yet disposing of ICT basic skills. By creating innovative basic ICT learning environments within functioning organisations, associations and neighbourhoods we want to lower the threshold for people to access new media. Hereby we especially focus on reaching those groups described as victims of the digital divide. As the local project proved to be a working formula, in cooperation with other organisations we have expanded the project to the provinces of Limburg and Vlaams Brabant.

Policy Context

The e-Europe action plan stated clearly that an information society should be created for all people. That is the only way e-inclusion can be realised. The project Digid@k has as main goal the inclusion of specified target groups by making ICT (infrastructure + knowledge) accessible. This is also one of the main goals stated in the national digital divide actionplan. In line with the i2010 policy we put a focus on e-inclusion. The groups we reach in our Digid@ks learn to find usefull infomation for them on the internet .

Description of target users and groups

Groups of people described as victims of the digital divide, especially seniors, low education level and low income groups. We have already reached more then 4500 visitors.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

At this time the project is a cooperation between SPK, BLM and IGO. We are working on standardisation of the concept and on the set up of a covering network from where we can give support to all new locations and communities. SPK is an organisation specialised in setting up projects in the region. We have a lot of expertise in spreading projects as good practice. Where possible we create independency for these projects. An example here is the PLATO project (support for SME's by "parent companies") that spread in Flanders as well as internationally from SPK. Multi-channel issues: In order for the Digid@k concept to work as it should, we work out partnerships with the different organisations active in an area. Digid@k has mainly a bridge function. We do not want to set up extended ICT training. Our focus lies on reaching vulnerable target groups and lowering thresholds. From there we want other actors to take over. Therefore strong parnterships are necessary.

Technology solution

The ICT learning environments are set up as follows: Each location (Digid@k) has 5 pc's with internet, a windows and office installation. There is a printer and scanner available. People can use the infrastructure for free. A speculator helps people with al their questions. The environment is an experimental one. People can bring their own software or download programs from the internet to try out. A simple image systems can easely restore all software problems. For the speculators there is a helpdesk available. If they have questions or technical problems they can turn to this helpdesk for guidance. The reason we chose for a Microsoft environment: When our visitors decide to get a computer, most of them will automatically get a computer with Windows (not other operating systems). When they have computerproblems at home, they have to rely on family or friends to help them out. Most of them have knowledge of windows (not other operating systems). That is why we want to teach them to work with windows. Our speculators are employed in Digid@k for one year. During this year they need to learn a lot of technical skills in order for them to become stronger candidates on the labourmarket. At this time, most employers have windows and microsoft office systems. Our speculators have to be able to work with these systems at the end of their year with us. However, in some cases, we advise people to get open office. The microsoft office is for our target groups very expensive. Open office is then a good alternative.

Main results, benefits and impacts

The following results are achieved: - 14 Digid@ks in the provinces of Antwerp, Limburg and Vlaams Brabant - more then 4000 people reached as visitor or participants in initiation sessions - 70% of participants in the employment project was able to find a job in the regular labour market. - ... More important then numbers and statistics (which can be found in a numbers report published on the website: are the stories we hear from our participants. Because of Digid@k they are able to start computer lessons elsewhere. Thresholds are really lowered because of our specified approach. Grandparents are now able to mail and chat with children and grandchildren who live far away. Jobseekers are able to use our infrastructure for finding job openings, for typing application letters and cv's, people learning ICT have now a place where they can ask all their specific questions without having to register for a full course. People who can not afford to buy their own computer or internet have now a place where they can use all these facilities. They are no longer excluded from the developing digital society. Innovation: Setting up public ICT environments was when this project started (2003) very new. These last years we see that a lot of organisations started public ICT environments. The method used in Digid@k however is still innovative. - First of all because we use the technique of embedding. Our Digid@ks are never isolated ICT environments. They are always embedded in organisations working with specific target groups. That's is necessary to reach the specified groups of people. - Also innovative is the employment of long term jobseekers.They use the year employment in Digid@k to work on the competences needed to get a job in the regular labour market. - The third innovative part is the global approach for the community. A lot of initiatives of public ICT environments start from small organisations that want to offer this service for their public. In Digid@k we offer communities a coördinated approach. Together with them we decide the target groups that need to be reached, the locations where they can be reached and the number of locations necessary. From one coördination point we offer support for all the locations in the city. Also promotion and other issues can be regulated easily from this coördination point.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

From SPK we started this project in 2003. We wrote a digital handbook that was available for all interested organisations or individuals. We started a partnership with the organisations BLM and IGO. They are involved in spreading the concept throughout their provinces. We are now looking for other partners to do the same in their own provinces. All organisations interested in the project are always welcom to visit. We also present our project on conferences and offer our expertise to all those who ask.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - The technique of embedding ICT environments within organisations working with vulnerable target groups works very well. By using small scaled ICT classes and working with counsellors taking people by the hand to lead them gradually to ICT we can really lower thresholds. Lesson 2 - These environments also function very well as social environments where people can communicate with neighbours and other visitors. Having Digid@ks in a local community opens the door for a lot of other socio-cultural projects Scope: Regional (sub-national)