Dorset Digital Hotlines marks first anniversary

Andy Taylor, one of the Digital Champion volunteers, who has been helping people with their enquiries via the Digital Hotline

A SPECIAL hotline set up to help people get online during lockdown has now celebrated its first anniversary.

Three lockdowns later and the Dorset Digital Hotline has now helped almost 1,000 people.

Behind the hotline is a team of dedicated volunteer Digital Champions who were forced to give up their library clinics when lockdown saw everything close.

Over the phone they have helped people use devices for the first time, set users up on Zoom and have tackled IT issues for people struggling to work and school from home.

The hotline also supported local maternity services by helping pregnant women fill in online medical forms and provided valuable advice to callers on broadband availability and speeds.

Dorset Council’s deputy leader, Cllr Peter Wharf, said: “I think we can honestly say that we did not think the hotline would be needed for a whole year.

“But now we’ve seen how successfully people can be helped over the phone there will still be a role for the hotline post lockdown, when we’ll be able to combine it with face-to-face help.

“The hotline’s success is down to our wonderful Digital Champions, who have given up their own time to help people get through these most difficult of months. Digital has been a life saver for many during the pandemic and the hotline helped so many benefit from it.”

In total, 921, calls have been made to the hotline since it was launched on March 30 2020.

Nearly 200 of the calls were from people asking for IT help with things like emails and printers; more than 150 people needed help to use devices like phones and tablets; 120 people were seeking assistance with online services such as shopping and health; 81 calls were from people needing help with video conferencing, Zoom, Skype, Facetime and WhatsApp and 86 callers needed help with their poor broadband.

The hotline was also the place to call for people in urgent need of devices, with Dorset Council issuing 50 free phones and tablets during the COVID crisis.

Digital Champion Andy Taylor said: “The past year has been challenging for everyone and particularly for those less familiar with the digital world.  Shopping, medical appointments, meetings and prescriptions all moved online and that caused some people to struggle.

“Through the hotline we have helped where possible and we’ve had to overcome the challenges of not being able to see people face-to-face.

“One of the highlights of the last year for me was helping a person with learning disabilities use their tablet to attend a medical consultation online and get the specialist help they needed.

“Often, people calling the hotline simply needed reassurance. The old days of deleting everything on a computer by accident have long gone and giving people the confidence to try and to play with their devices without (too much) risk has been great.

“It has been really satisfying helping people who called the hotline and it will be even better when we can go back to face-to-face sessions in libraries.”

People can call the Digital Hotline on 01305 221048, Mondays to Fridays, 10am to 12noon.

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