Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd has called on funding to be ringfenced to provide older citizens with digital skills training which has proven so important during Covid-19.
Deputy O’Dowd said, “Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on communities, businesses, families and individuals across the country.
“In recent months, there has been a shift towards remote working, online trading, and the provision of digital services, and it seems this will be a permanent fixture in our society and economy which we must prepare for as we live with Covid-19.
“It also reinforces the need for all of our citizens, in particular those who are elderly and vulnerable, to be equipped with the skills they need to conduct their business online, for tasks such as online shopping, paying bills and receiving and sending their correspondence.
“We are all adapting to this new way of living with Covid-19 , and we need to ensure that older people stay close to their families and friends and can actively participate in their communities.
“The Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment already provides the Digital Skills for Citizens Grant Scheme which was allocated funding of €2.2 million to 12 organisations in 2019 to provide basic digital skills training to people nationwide.
“Under the scheme, citizens who have never used the internet will receive 10 hours of classroom training, free of charge. Classes cover basic skills, and also allow flexibility to address the particular needs and preferences identified by the trainees.
“The Programme for Government is committed to exploring a new digital skills for citizens grant scheme, with a particular focus on one-to-one training.
“It would be a welcome development if funding could be provided to training providers or voluntary organisations and community groups who could provide this training to individuals in a community setting.
“Ensuring access to high-quality internet connections for people across Ireland is essential to the development of all parts our country, socially and economically, and will also be prioritised with the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan,” Deputy O’Dowd concluded.