GETTING ONLINE IS EASY – A recent cohort on BCHA’s Bournemouth Digital course at Westbourne Library including Avis Niven (back left) with co-ordinator Andy Merchant (right). 
GETTING ONLINE IS EASY – A recent cohort on BCHA’s Bournemouth Digital course at Westbourne Library including Avis Niven (back left) with co-ordinator Andy Merchant (right). 

BCHA’s Bournemouth Digital programme has enabled 132 ‘digitally excluded’ people to acquire computer skills in its first year - and is now looking to help others become more confident online.

Leading housing and employability provider BCHA launched Bournemouth Digital in June 2022 with funding from the Good Things Foundation under an initiative called Power Up, which aims to drive economic and social inclusion through digital skills, with financial support from J.P Morgan.

The term ‘digitally excluded’ refers to anyone who cannot easily access services they need online.

It is estimated that a third of Dorset residents are digitally excluded, including 20 per cent who are without essential skills and 11 per cent who are completely offline.

These figures include older people who have not been acquainted with modern technology but would benefit from being able to access online health and banking services and also being able to keep in touch with relatives. And working people who use computers, but whose digital skills are limited.

Andy Merchant, the co-ordinator of Bournemouth Digital said: “Many people lack the confidence or the day-to-day computing skills necessary in our increasingly digital society to do things like online banking, filling in electronic forms, or even gaining meaningful employment - but Bournemouth Digital can help them to acquire that confidence.

“We are incredibly pleased with the success of the programme to date.

“People of all ages and backgrounds have actively seized the opportunity to begin or boost their digital journey with us and the feedback on the easy to follow course structure, small class sizes and friendly teaching has been extremely positive.

“We have also been very fortunate to have recruited seven, volunteer Digital Champions this year, who will be helping us to deliver even more courses in the next 12 months.”

Bournemouth Digital offers rolling, five-week courses across community hubs and libraries in Bournemouth.

Small groups of participants or individuals learn basic computer functionality, including how to use a keyboard and mouse, internet searching, getting to grips with sending emails, uploading attachments and replying to emails, online job searching via various job sites, staying safe online, document editing and online finance, including online banking. 

Avis Niven, 87 and from Poole is in her fourth week of the five-week course at Westbourne Library. She said: “I have a lap-top and a tablet and phone. But I have forgotten a lot in the 15 years since I retired as a PA, and I have found this course invaluable. 

“I like family history and want to be able to use my computer for my research.

“Andy is very patient and understanding and we all learn at our own pace. I would highly recommend the course to anyone.”

Digital Champion Viv Yardley said: “Working as a Digital Champion is so rewarding. We enable individuals to empower themselves with the confidence to use the internet, email, and word processing technology, to enhance their lives. From researching and booking a day out, to keeping in touch with family friends.” 

Bournemouth Digital is open to anyone living in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, aged 18-plus with few or no digital skills.

Bournemouth Digital would also like to hear from people with IT skills who would like to volunteer as Digital Champions on its upcoming course or organisations interested in hosting a beginner’s computer course for their employees or members who are new to computers.

Donations of old working laptops would also be gratefully received.

For further information, please call 07929 709903, email or visit the BCHA Learn Skills section of our website.

For media information, please contact BCHA Communications Manager via email at:

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