Student-led DigiGallus Connect Initiative

Collage of all students involved in DigiGallus surrounding their logo

By Sara Cullinane, Co-Lead, DigiGallus Connect 

DigiGallus Connect is a student-led initiative which aims to increase digital accessibility and promote digital inclusion amongst elderly parts of the Greater Glasgow Community with the core of our project focusing around the fact that digital inclusion should be for all.

We aim to achieve this by developing and delivering digital accessibility and digital literacy mentoring programmes between higher education students and the broader community. We created these programmes to be sustainable and to produce a benefit to civic society.

The project was initially created because of the Covid-19 lockdown. Due to the new reality that we all faced, the fact that we couldn’t visit relatives or see friends, a lot of our social interaction shifted online. Yet what about those who didn’t have access to the internet or didn’t know how to use it? How did they cope with the changes imposed? It was that line of thinking that encouraged the growth of this initiative.

Digital Inclusion rates tend to be the lowest amongst the elderly population with over half of non-internet users being over the age of 75 and there is also a social inequality element with around 49% of non-internet users classified as being some of the most deprived in society, according to the Good Things Foundation. These realities are what our project is structured around. DigiGallus Connect aims to produce two services for the community – structured mentoring programmes that aim to allow our community partners to increase their digital skills and loaning the platforms used to access the internet to those who need it  most so that they can develop those skills.

The mentoring programme is open to all who want to join whereas the provision of platforms is contingent on our community partners completing the full mentoring programme and for a limited time. We are committed to promoting continuous learning in order to connect the community and want our project to also provide a learning experience to our mentors as well; encouraging the fostering of intergenerational communication skills and stronger communication skills, to name but a few.

Digallus Connect is not the first digital inclusion project run in response to the new reality we faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our project evolved from the Adam Smith Business School's response to Covid-19 that focused on the circumstances experienced by the business school community (staff, students and our stakeholders) during this crisis. It focused on providing a way of assisting the business school community through this situation in a way that was sensitive to the idea of sustainable & responsible management.

From the initial DigiGallus project it was clear there was a massive desire to help out in the community as well as a wish to have some sort of learning experience for students to experience as many prior opportunities and commitments were affected. There was a real energy to do something different, something that made a positive difference. As the University of Glasgow is a 'world class' university, it's important for us to leverage our expertise in research and knowledge to produce the best experience for students and staff alike. As members of the community, we have a civic duty to help others. Hence, due to our academic support partner Kathleen Riach's expertise in inequalities affecting the ageing population and a desire shown by UofG students to help the community, DigiGallus Connect was born.

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First published: 27 August 2020

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