A DIGITAL inclusion initiative that helps Somerset residents with technology has been given national recognition for its services.

The group were awarded the 2023 ISPA Digital Inclusion award, which recognises efforts to bridge the digital divide and help people stay or become connected.

Spark Somerset's Spark iT project has seen 'digital cafés' set up in several locations across the county including Bridgwater.

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.”

Thanks to their award success, Spark Somerset will now benefit from a £2,000 grant to further extend the Spark iT initiative with the goal of getting everyone in Somerset acquainted with technology.

Samantha Briggs, Digital Inclusion Project Manager at Spark Somerset, said: “We’re thrilled and very proud that our Spark iT project been recognised as the winner of the Digital Inclusion Award category by ISPA UK.

“Since the project’s inception in 2021, we have expanded our one-to-one visits, telephone helpdesk and loan scheme, and quadrupled our volunteer numbers allowing us to go from supporting two regular digital inclusion events to twenty.

“Working in partnership with dozens of incredible organisations, we are close to providing 95% of residents with a regular digital support event within five miles of their home - not an easy feat in our rural areas!

“We want to congratulate the other finalists, who are all doing an amazing job to bridge the digital divide in their counties and express our gratitude to all our volunteers and partner organisations who made the win possible.”

Allison Nation, Associate Director of Digital Strategy, Directorate of Strategy, Digital and Integration at NHS Somerset said: “This is such well-deserved recognition for the team who have worked tirelessly to champion the importance of digital inclusion and provide people and communities with such valuable support.

"The work being done at a local community level to create connections and build skills and confidence is a vital part of helping people in Somerset to live healthier and better-connected lives.”