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Unwrapping the digital Divide webinar Series (Session 3)

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a community-based approach to digital inclusion

Success Story from uK leeds city council's model


On April 4th, we hosted the 3rd session of our Webinar series: Unwrapping the Digital Divide. This series develops different topics in the field of digital inclusion, where practitioners on the ground share their hands-on approach and the best practices they have gathered throughout their work. During the first session we covered digital literacy, while in the second one, we dived into the design of a basic digital skills course that allows the transferability of skills to other fields, such as the job market search. In this Webinar, we looked at the 100% Digital Leeds’ community-based model, Leeds City Council’s successful digital inclusion program, to then understand its implementation through two case studies: The Old Fire Station and Burmantofts Senior Action. This model is unique because of its holistic and embedded approach: it looks at integrating digital inclusion within the services individuals already use. Digital inclusion is seen as an enabler to achieving existing priorities and outcomes, while it ensures better digital access to support people’s independence and ability to make informed choices.

Silvano de Marte, Communications & Community Engagement Officer at DigiCo, opened the session, while Léa Ichikawa, Program Manager at DigiCo, presented the speakers and moderated throughout the webinar. During the first part of the event, Amy Hearn, Senior Digital Inclusion Officer at 100% Digital Leeds, presented this model she co-created along with her team. 100% Digital Leeds launched their Community-based approach to digital inclusion in December 2022, after four years of intense work in the field. Understanding digital inclusion as an enabler, their unique program aims to ensure that every person across the city and region of Leeds has the equipment, connectivity, digital skills, confidence and knowledge they need to engage with digital tools and services. 100% Digital Leeds partners with other organisations to build a connected digital inclusion ecosystem across the city: they work with different partners who already support communities likely to be digitally excluded. 100% Digital Leeds enables their partners to embed digital inclusion into their already ongoing work so that it becomes part of their partners’ business. This needs-first approach meets the needs of communities and enables partner priorities, therefore increasing their capacity to deliver digital inclusion sustainably. They additionally support their partners through advice, resources and funding. 

To better understand this model, speakers from two partner organisations that have piloted and implemented it followed Amy Hearn’s presentation. Firstly, Fran Etherington, Development Manager at The Old Fire Station, presented how they integrated digital inclusion into her organisation’s everyday activities. The Old Fire Station, a key delivery partner of 100% Digital Leeds, is a community space with six local charities supporting the East suburb of Leeds. Trust is at the heart of this organisation: the thousand people that visit The Old Fire Station on a weekly base perceive it as a safe place where they are heard and understood. Their approach is holistic and community-based: as people are already coming to them to do some of the many activities in their agenda, they have found different ways of embedding digital across the services and activities taking place in the building. For example, they have drop-in sessions for people to receive expert support for different digital issues they may have, such as setting up an e-mail address or learning how to use FaceTime to talk to their family. All the staff is encouraged to embed digital in every conversation they have, to upskill the individuals that come to the centre. 

Secondly, Tom Armstrong, Project Manager at Burmantofts Senior Action CIO (BSA) shared his experience partnering with 100% Digital Leeds. BSA is a local charity which supports people aged over 60 with weekly social activities. At The Old Fire Station, they try to embed digital into all aspects of their work to provide valuable tools for their people. They offer their community devices, data and support, as well as advice and learning services. After Tom’s presentation, Léa Ichikawa closed this third session and opened a round of Q&A. 

100% Digital Leeds’ model was developed to be implemented at a city level. However, their learnings can be replicated at different scales. With this Webinar, we hope to have inspired other organisations to adopt holistic initiatives towards digital inclusion at either a district, organisational or project level. As 100% Digital Leeds, we believe that digital inclusion is social inclusion: those who can most benefit from digitalisation tend to be those who are least likely to be online. The following session of this Webinar series: Unwrapping the Digital Divide will take place in the next months, so follow us on social media to stay updated:

replay session 3:



100% Digital Leeds is a city-wide digital inclusion programme led by the digital inclusion team in the Integrated Digital Service (IDS) at Leeds City Council and Leeds Health and Care Partnership NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board. 

The Old Fire Station is a community space with 6 local charities supporting the East suburb of Leeds, called Gipton. They are a key delivery partner of 100% Digital Leeds.

Burmantofts Senior Action is a local charity which supports people aged over 60 with weekly social activities. They offer one off events and trips, outreach support with bills and benefits, volunteering opportunities, health/wellbeing support and digital inclusion. BSA celebrates the individual, what they have achieved in life, and what they still want to achieve now.