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Archive for May, 2008

News from the ICT Champion in Yorkshire and Humberside of an announcement by Microsoft of donations to UK Online Centres. It includes a full suite of software and up to 50 user licenses, free of charge. Follow the link for more details.

Microsoft donations programme extended to non-charity UKonline Centres

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It’s all change at the top as a new set of national services start to roll out across the land, bringing a new range of support to the voluntary sector and the people who support it. It’s intended to herald a new way of doing things after the first few years of ChangeUp, and includes the work of the existing regional ICT Champions. like me [hello].

Improving Support is a new CapacityBuilders-funded website that provides information about the nine National Support Services that replace the six Hubs. It only has basic information on it so far, as most of the services are only due to start up in earnest this summer, so there’s not much about what they’re going to do or how they’re going to work. Some strands provide an overview of what they’ll do over three years. Some have listed activities for the first year.

For example Volunteering will be led by Volunteering England, whose activities start with “research to identify the practical support that frontline organisations need.” And the Collaboration workstream is led by bassac, which starts its activities by “developing the reference/advisory structures”. Which is similar to ACEVO’s first step, which is  “Researching and scoping current provision to avoid re-inventing the wheel – and adding value to existing programme.”

There is a sense of babies being lost with bath water if this sort of information is not available after the past few years of needs assessments, consortium development plans and seemingly endless surveys. But these are early days and there is also a lot of detail there about ambitions for new services and more targeted support than the Hubs provided.

So let’s hope that this first phase is no more than a short initial scoping exercise. What we’re waiting for is a coherent, dynamic, participative roll-out, with an army of eager beavers working across all nine workstreams, knitting together the work of over 20 national agencies to help deliver another round of change in the second tier.

Meanwhile the ICT Champions have started building a plan for the next three years. This will be based more or less on business as usual at a regional level but we hope to create a more coherent national plan and share information and ideas in a more focused way.

As the dust settles from the past few months of uncertainty we’re expecting to sit in amongst this network of support and activity, translating and connecting between consortium-level organisations and the national support services. Any ideas and suggestions welcome.

improvingsupport.org.uk / welcome

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Good article in the Guardian about how to reach the 30% of people who don’t have regular access to broadband or related digital technologies. Some don’t want it of course, but many are prevented from having it through cost or lack of access.

The Digital Inclusion conference last week highlighted growing Government action in this field, linked to recent research activities funded through UK Online looking at the social and economic impact of digital inclusion projects. As the author of the article Michael Crossnotes it’s not about giving things away to the poor and needy but tackling market failure in a service area which is entirely privately owned and run.

And as well as getting suppliers to play fair it’s about a bit more joined up thinking about grant funding to actually get people in front of PCs and getting the help they need in their local communities.

At ground level SCIP works with many community groups who have suites of computers paid for by funders eager to hand over capital, but whose doors are shut because they can’t get grants for the costs of keeping them running. Stuff like insurance, broadband connections, materials, let alone salaries and trainers’ fees.

New UK Online funding was announced this week and seems to be headed in the right direction ie revenue funding and reasonable sized grants of up to £10k. Let’s hope this is a sign that Government is realising what makes a difference at community level, as well as getting the big telecoms providers to put their weight behind solving the big problems.

Digital inclusion isn’t just about playing Santa Claus | Technology | The Guardian

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Do you ever have to organise meetings for lots of different people, and end up playing diary matching games by email for days on end? Some people use Outlook to find available dates, but more and more people are using the elegant Doodle.
To use Doodle just go to www.doodle.ch, post up a list of possible dates and invite people to visit the page you create. They can then indicate which dates and times they can make, without needing to log in. As people add their details the page notifies you which dates are the most popular.
It’s free of charge, it’s very simple and as well as scheduling meetings you can use it for other polls.

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