A SUCCESSFUL project which helps Somerset residents to get online has been shortlisted for a major national award.

The Spark iT Digital Inclusion Project is up for the national Digital Inclusion Award by ISPA UK.

Hosted by charity Spark Somerset, the team behind the project work to help Somerset residents who face technological difficulties due to a a lack of skill, confidence, device or connection.

Samantha Briggs, Digital Inclusion Project Manager at Spark Somerset, said: “We’re delighted and incredibly proud that our Spark iT project has been shortlisted for the Digital Inclusion Award category by ISPA UK.

"With the awards coinciding with ‘Get Online Week’ taking place across the UK this week, the timing couldn’t be better.

"We have expanded our one-to-one visits, telephone helpdesk, and loan scheme in the past year and now support twenty regular digital events across the county.

"By January 2024, 95% of Somerset residents will have free digital support within 5 miles of their home."

Allison Nation, Associate Director of Digital Strategy, Directorate of Strategy, Digital and Integration at NHS Somerset added: "I am delighted to see the digital inclusion work of this amazing team shortlisted for this award for developing and delivering the SPARK iT project."

The Spark iT project is run by a group of selfless volunteer Digital Champions, who have been going above-and-beyond to help connect communities in Somerset.

One Digital Champion, Nic, explained: "I was fortunate to start my career when IT was just computers.

"After providing technical support for my father getting to grips with PCs and their rapid change, I realised I could spend some of my retirement helping others and keeping up to date with continuing developing tech.

"Volunteering on a subject I know something about has been very satisfying, particularly when I see clients' eyes light up and they go away with a nagging problem solved.

"I am very pleased to be able to use years of experience in retirement to meet the challenge of digital exclusion in Somerset."

The Digital Inclusion Project includes regular Digital Café workshops with locals at a variety of venues across the county, including the Waffle Hub Community Café in Burnham-on-Sea, and The Hub in Angel Place, Bridgwater.

This has proven to be an immensely successful way of helping locals who are facing tech difficulties.

Sally, who attends the Digital Café at The Hub in Bridgwater, said: "It has reduced a lot of the stress I felt when using devices.

"I’ve recently been working on building my confidence with online shopping as I noticed that I was missing out on the best deals.

"With the cost-of-living crisis, it’s been really helpful for me to find new ways to save money.”

The winner of the award will be announced on Thursday November 9, when Spark Somerset will join the other three finalists at the ISPA Awards in London.