Superfast broadband workshops help Devon and Somerset businesses improve online

Over 12,000 residents and businesses from communities across Devon and Somerset have already improved their digital skills and knowledge through the successful Get up to Speed Service.

The Get up to Speed team runs free workshops and talks for communities and businesses to help boost digital skills and share the benefits of current or future faster broadband. Since launching in Spring 2014, the service commissioned by the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme, has delivered over 500 events and supported more than 9,000 business representatives, and 3,800 community residents.

The aim is to ensure businesses are ready to take full advantage of a £94 million investment in digital infrastructure by the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme, which will see hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses being able to access fast broadband speeds by 2016.

The workshops offer businesses free, independent advice and guidance to help micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) identify, adopt and exploit the opportunities that superfast broadband technology can create. The service can help businesses reduce costs, increase their offer to existing customers, find new customers and strengthen their competitiveness.

A recent event attendee commented: “It has given me ideas for our business’ social media strategy, lessens some of the fear and overwhelm around the world of social media for marketing; the trainer had a fantastic knowledge base and was very helpful.”

It’s not just about businesses however, communities can also benefit through gaining a better understanding of social media, accessing online public services as well as making the most of services such as iPlayer, live streaming, and homeworking.

Jo Pearson, Clerk to Cheddon Fitzpaine Parish Council said “Get up to Speed held a Drop In Surgery at Cheddon Hall for people to pop in with their devices and tech questions. The team were on hand to offer advice and answer specific questions on choosing a broadband deal, using the internet, e-mail, mobile phones, laptops, tablets, social media and much more! The session went very well – and those of us who needed to be taken slowly through items really benefitted. So, a heartfelt thanks!”

The CDS programme, which commenced in 2013, is now around 80 per cent complete; with 1,300 cabinets live and more than 295,000 premises capable of connecting to fibre broadband, nearly 250,000 of which can connect to superfast speeds of more than 24mbps – a number which is growing rapidly.
Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “The Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme is aiming to encourage businesses to make the most of superfast connectivity when it arrives. Delivering practical digital skills workshops and the digital toolkit are another step towards this goal. Whether it’s using social media to bring in business or making sure your company is the first thing people see when they are looking for a product or service online, improved broadband access will open up a whole new world of opportunities.”

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, said: “Superfast broadband brings with it a wide range of benefits for business, particularly in rural areas like Devon and Somerset. With the growth and potential for home working and businesses based across the region, it’ more important that we make sure everyone is aware of how it can help them and how to benefit from the new technology.”

Get up to Speed is a great example of how digital technology can bring communities closer together creating a real sense of community spirit. Some villages have even gone on to provide group sessions afterwards to help transfer skills and knowledge.

Nicky Demellweek, Get up to Speed Business & Community Engagement Co-ordinator said “We aim to inspire people to improve their digital skills and make the most of faster connection speeds. We try to engage with as many communities and businesses as possible, so we run sessions in locations accessible for multiple parishes and organisations. The Get up to Speed service is fully funded so there is no charge for us to deliver our sessions.

The most popular include Introduction to iPads, Digital Villages Toolkit, Stand out on Social Media and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

We realise that it is important to develop digital skills and knowledge from an early age so we have just extended our community activity menu to include a new assembly talk suitable for secondary level and above. In this inspiring talk we explore the future of digital and technology, and the impact it will have on careers. This has been received really well by secondary schools in the region and we hope to do more of them.”

If you think your area or business network could benefit from a digital skills session, please contact Get up to Speed. info@get-up-to-speed.co.uk

Check out the events page at http://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/get-up-to-speed/events to see Get up to Speeds upcoming sessions – more dates are added every month so do keep an eye out!