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A day in the life of...

Matthew Duff-Cole, Go Online Advisor, tells us more about his role.

I started working for Colchester Borough Council in October 2016 as the 'Go Online Advisor'. The main focus of my role is to encourage residents to make use of all the Council's online services and provide free digital skills training & general computer related support to those inexperienced or new to computing and the internet. It's about finding innovative ways to get residents to embrace the digital world and discover the immediate advantages of the near-instant access to information, goods and services.

I believe that everyone can benefit from basic online skills in all manner of ways; economically, financially, socially, educationally and e culturally. The internet is a powerful and useful tool - with most job applications, unbiased news and best shopping prices largely being found online, those without digital skills are now at living at a disadvantage.

Day to day activities include:

  • Hosting digital events in numerous locations, such as libraries, village halls, social clubs, Sheltered Housing schemes and job centres, across the borough. Events range from structured classroom style mini-courses, One-to-One sessions, job application workshops and drop-in sessions where residents can receive assistance, no appointment necessary.
  • Events are delivered in a friendly, informal manner that I think is important when helping those tentative of learning a new skill, especially one that is often associated with being daunting, jargon-loaded and only for the young or technically minded.
  • Running our 'Digital Skills for Life' course for both residents and staff that is ideal for teaching the most basic skills, each attendee leaving with the confidence and ability to:
    • Set up an email account
    • Open, type, save and retrieve a word document
    • Browse the internet
    • Look at local services
    • Register for online learning
    • Keep safe online
  • Looking for fresh locations to set up new drop-in sessions and contacting businesses/charities/organisations to partner with to provide joined up support to keep up the online momentum.
  • Training 'Online Champions' who are volunteer members of the community who receive our training so they can assist others to get online and receive support in setting up their own drop-in session.
  • Giving feedback to the Web Development team on changes to improve the council website, often receiving feedback from those new to technology allows us to make the site easy to use and accessible to all.

What I like most about my job is the variety that comes from working in different locations, seeing new faces every day in a very community facing and community spirited role. Also having previously come from a healthcare role I was pleased to find my current work so much more rewarding! I really enjoy helping people to take their first steps getting online and witnessing just how quickly they make progress.

Some highlights being teaching a lady how to use her late husband's laptop and discovering a large collection of family photo albums, assisting a gentleman scan & send documents to secure ownership of his dream villa in Spain, reconnecting people with relatives across the globe and the reward of instilling confidence in to learn new skills and explore for themselves the almost endless functionality of computers.

Working in the public sector has been great. I am very aware and feel duty bound to provide high level service to the community. I am really glad to see for myself the inner workings of a council and pleased to now know it is filled with genuine people working to improve the services and environment of our local area.

If you know anyone that would benefit from this free service on offer, please let them know. Details on drop-in sessions or to book a one-to-one session are available at: One-to-One Support and Drop-In Sessions