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Bridging the digital divide through community connections

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The digital world is rapidly evolving and a vital part of day-to-day life for many, however, some people get left behind unfortunately.

The Place, the local Community Centre in Charlestown, has stepped in to help bridge the digital divide.

After the success of its Community and Intergenerational Digital Exchange initiative in 2020-2021, the organisation began another round of the course in September 2021, made possible through funding support from the Good Things Foundation as part of the Australian Government’s Be Connected Program.

The Place’s module, termed cDEX and iDEX, trains community members and high school students to become digital mentors to family and residents over 50 years of age, bringing digital literacy learning and support to those who need it. 

“The purpose of the program is to increase the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians, empowering everyone to use the internet and everyday technology to thrive in our digital world,” The Place: Charlestown Community Centre manager Cristelle Govender said.

“When COVID hit, we had to rethink the way we engaged with seniors and find new ways of reaching people.

“This was the beginning of the cDEX and iDEX program, which has since enabled so much more than digital literacy.”

The program equips mentors with the essential proficiencies to support people over 50 to improve their digital skills and confidence.

Mentors don’t need to be experts, the emphasis is on people skills like empathy, patience and positive communication and the fact that everyone has skills and knowledge to share.

Over the past year, The Place trained 22 new community members and 70 students to become Digital Mentors.

They, in turn, supported more than 164 residents, investing over 124 hours of their time.

Mentors taught learners everything from taking photos to creating email accounts, playing Wordle, using social media, identifying scams, online banking and more.

The outcomes of this program extend to more than just digital literacy.

It helped build social connections for seniors and furthermore provided opportunities for young people to connect with their families and seniors in their community while building their own capacity as leaders.

Summed up in the words of a young mentor: “I would like to say thank you so much for running the program. I have learnt a lot of things that I now apply in my daily life to assist others in not only using technology, but in learning other things as well.”

The Place celebrated the program’s success and the achievements of the digital mentors with an awards event last month, acknowledging their positive work helping others and making a difference in their community.

Now, The Place is excited to announce it will be conducting another round of the initiative.

“We are looking for community members of all ages and high schools from across the Hunter region to get involved,” Ms Govender said.

To find out more or express your interest, contact Grace at [email protected] or on 4032 5500.

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