Computer Wizards in the Community
Dozens of community groups and charities in Blackpool are in line to benefit from some computer wizardry thanks to Lancaster University students.
Volunteers from across a range of university departments have teamed up to offer information technology solutions from workshops for the computer-phobic to website and database production.
The two-year project called Commit (Community IT) has been made possible thanks to a £250,000 European Regional Development Fund award and is run by a partnership between Blackpool Council for Voluntary Services and Lancaster University with support from Lancaster University’s Business Enterprise Centre. Blackpool-based free IT hardware provider PC Recycler is also a project partner.
Commit provides student-led teams, which go out into the community and carry out ‘IT health checks’ on organisations looking for assistance with IT. The team then works with them to create a tailored programme.
So far the project has provided specialist advice to Revoe First Steps Centre in Blackpool breathing new life into their disused computer suite, helping it become a hub of activity once again. Other projects have included bespoke workshops for single mothers and computer classes for the over 55s.
Ben Matthews, Director of the Lancaster University Volunteer Unit, which is project managing the scheme, said Commit had already made an impression and was keen to hear from more community groups looking for help with IT.
He said: “We expect to have between 40 and 80 volunteers working on the project over the next two years and to be able to offer support to more than 190 individuals. Organisations can use Commit to help them to grow and develop through IT. Our student volunteers gain practical experience of using their skills in the community which can stand them in good stead in their future careers.”
He added: “We will use this project as a pilot – we’d like to extend it out to Lancaster and across Lancashire depending on future funding.”