As part of the Get IT Together – Bristol project, volunteers run 11 free beginners’ computer courses throughout Bristol each week. In April 2013, Kevin O’Malley, Manager of the Future City team at Bristol City Council spoke at the bi-annual Bristol Volunteers Thank you and Best Practice Day about the importance of volunteering. The transcript of that talk follows.
“Hi, I’m Kevin O’Malley and my work involves helping Bristol to be at the forefront of digital inclusion, highlighting and addressing the barriers people have to getting online.
There are three main barriers to getting online; equipment, connectivity and skills.
Volunteers at the Citizens Online computer courses play a vital role in addressing this issue of skills and that’s why I’ve come here today to say thank you to you all for the time and enthusiasm you are putting into helping people get online.
With welfare reforms coming in and people having to get online to access essential services it is becoming a bit problem for some people who don’t have the skills, as well as the other barriers mentioned.
Some people don’t have the connectivity and there are lots of reasons for that; very expensive or having to sign up to long term contracts.
Maybe they don’t have the kit, getting the kit without the knowledge of what to buy or get something that’s useful to you, is very difficult.
Having the computer skills is the thing that I think is most valuable, giving the people the skills and the confidence, without that people are going to become more and more disadvantaged.
Organisations like government and city councils move towards more digital services as it’s cheaper to relate to people online, so the obligation is for people to be able communicate more in that way. Businesses have been doing it for a long time, if you want to buy a ticket to go on Easy Jet or Ryan Air you need a digital connection.
My fear is we are already going to find people that are disadvantaged in lots of different ways, more disadvantaged by not having the skills to get online, and this is a fantastic program that is really making a difference. Nationally this is one of the most effective, and highly respected, programs of this kind and I know we couldn’t have done it here in Bristol without you guys delivering it.
I suppose the thing for me is getting down to the human stories and the differences this makes to people’s lives, just to be able to think there are hundreds of people now in the city today who are able to Skype their relatives abroad because of the work that you guys do, and I just wanted to say thanks very much, it’s really important and valuable stuff.”