Stockport’s first digital device lending library has now launched for residents who have no or limited access to the internet.
Tablets and laptops are free to borrow, and free data packages are also available. There is also support to get online and staying safe online through the council’s Community Digital Champions.
The digital device lending library has been set up by Starting Point part of the borough’s DigiKnow alliance – a group of organisations promoting the importance of digital skills and helping more people in Stockport become confident, independent users of digital devices and the internet. It builds on the digital skills support that has been offered to residents throughout the pandemic as people have increasingly relied on the internet, whether to complete school work, order shopping or to keep up with family and friends.
Councillor Kate Butler, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focus and Engagement says:
Throughout the pandemic we’ve been finding ways to continue providing services that reach and support vulnerable people in greatest need. This device lending scheme will help those residents who would like to do things online but are prevented by the cost of devices and access to the internet.
“We put people at the heart of everything we do, and we want everyone to benefit from the internet and see for themselves the positive changes that being online can make to their work, health and life. This scheme is helping to bridge the gap between those offline and those online and will help to ensure no-one is left behind.”
Some devices have already been borrowed and Ryan McMurdo from Starting Point has seen a range of different needs from borrowers. He commented:
Some people with no access to the internet have been shielding with very limited contact with the outside world or spending a fortune on phone charges to family abroad during lockdown. Others have limited access but have been struggling to do schoolwork or apply for jobs from a shared mobile phone. There are also people keen to learn who aren’t sure which device to buy. In the past they could have tried different devices during our face to face classes – this scheme is a new way to ‘try before they buy’. “
The standard loan period will be one month for a tablet and three months for a laptop. During the loan period, borrowers will have support from a Digital Champion via telephone and video, and Starting Point encourage all learners to join the online group learning sessions. The devices are completely clean of any previous data when loaned to residents and when they’re returned, all data is erased, and the device is reset and cleaned.