Sunderland city council has won the government’s Digital Challenge competition and scooped £3m to implement its plans for a digitally enabled community to benefit vulnerable people in the area.
The Digital Challenge was set up by the Department for Communities and Local Government to provide an incentive for cities and regions to improve the lives of local communities and individual citizens through technology. The challenge aimed to produce a winner that could act as an example of how IT can be used to tackle social exclusion.
Sunderland’s winning bid includes plans to establish “community e-champions” who will work in their local area to help vulnerable people access computer and internet services. An e-mentoring scheme will support children and young people, while a walkie-talkies and panic button system will help carers and the vulnerable people they care for.
Part of the Sunderland's bid submission was created by pupils at the city’s Southwick primary school who produced a film about how the Digital Challenge would change their lives.
The council's cabinet member for resources, Cllr Dave Allan, said: “Winning this award is great news for the council, and fantastic news for the people of Sunderland as it represents another stage in the continued development of technology to meet the needs of everyone within our community.”
He added: “This additional funding through Digital Challenge will allow us to develop exciting and innovative projects to make a real difference to people's daily lives through promoting independence and increasing community access to the very latest technology.”
Ten Digital Challenge finalists were announced last year and awarded £120,000. Judges then assessed how effectively they had used the money to develop community based projects as the next stage of the bidding process.
E-government minister, Angela Smith, said: "Digital inclusion is about more than new technologies. It is an opportunity to solve problems and improve the lives of people in our communities. As the winner of the Digital Challenge, Sunderland should be seen as an example of how the social and digital divide can be bridged and serve as a blueprint for local partnerships for the future.”