Many of our WI members in the 40 plus age bracket find themselves in the group of women who left school before digital literacy became the 3rd basic skill taught in schools.
These members now find themselves making up part of the 10.5 million people in this country who have never been online. Unless they worked for a company who encouraged the development of digital skills, then they can find themselves excluded from large parts of our modern society which is based on digital literacy.
Since the NFWI ran its initial Digital Champions scheme a few years ago computer skills have been superseded by the introduction of tablets. Many members find tablets easier to use and we have seen a rapid growth of interest from members wanting to use the internet and looking for support in doing so. Children and grandchildren have bought tablets for ‘Mum’ or ‘Gran’ but not sat down to help them come to terms with the new technology.
Our members have coped with so much rapid change over the years. They have all coped with new modes of transport and methods of communication and new gadgets in the home. Tablets and the use of laptops can also be taken on-board quite readily with just a little help and support, and welcome guidance to the meaning of new words which have entered their vocabulary.
Cheshire Federation has spent the last 12 months improving its internet access and support for members. The new website www.cheshirewi,org.uk has attracted half a million visits since it went live at the start of the centenary year. Within the website are links to every WI in the Federation, where they can include links to their own websites and Facebook and Twitter pages. Every WI in the Federation can also have their own information page within the county website to promote themselves and use as an independent web page if they want to. WIs recognise the importance of a web presence to bring new members into their WIs and now over 60% of the WIs in Cheshire have taken advantage of these promotional tools.
On WI day on 16th September 2015 we launched the Cheshire Federation Facebook page and have attracted friends from all over the world who follow our posts. We received over 2,000 hits for the first meeting of the newly formed WITea training session held in WI House on 28th October. Through Facebook we can keep in touch with WIs and Federations and share events and information amongst our members.
One of the WIs in our Federation submitted a Resolution this year to alert members to the problems of digital exclusion. The resolution was not shortlisted, but we believe in what we are doing and are helping to offer support to our own members.
With the help of Cheshire East and Cheshire Libraries we have now launched our WITea scheme to train WI members who enjoy the benefits of being online, giving them the information they need to help their fellow members to use the internet for friendship, shopping and banking online safely.
We are rolling out support through WIs across the county making use of the resources which are free of charge to members of the libraries. We also have computers and a WIFi hub in WI House in Chester which is used for running IT sessions for members.
Our second training session is being held at Macclesfield Library this week and in the New Year we are going to offer more drop-in sessions at libraries across the county and in WI House.
Now they are trained, members of the scheme are already running one to one sessions with fellow members and have set up WI training groups within their own WIs. With the help of the MOODLE we have put together training materials and information to share with members and are busy setting up guidelines for internet protocol.
The last stage of the Cheshire Federation reaching the digital age is the launch of an online newsletter for members to subscribe to in 2016.
As to our WITea and cupcake logo. Our scheme does what it says on the tin. We offer IT support to WI members over a cup of tea and a cake. The WI Inspiring Women.