Headlines: March 14th, 2007



Sunderland City Council has won the Government’s Digital Challenge competition and gets 3 million pounds to deliver its plans for a digitally enabled community to benefit vulnerable and socially excluded people. The city will also work now with the other finalists in the competition who have formed the DC10 to progress the use of technology to deal with social exclusion.

Sunderland’s winning proposals will see a number of initiatives, including Community e-Champions, who will work in their local areas to help vulnerable people access computer and internet services as well as helping children who are at risk of underachieving at Key Stage 3. There will also be an e-mentoring scheme for children and young people. The winning bid will also benefit carers and looked after children through the provision of walkie talkies and panic buttons.

As part of the Digital Challenge a number of cities, towns and regions set out their visions for a digitally-enabled society with technology being used to improve the way the needs of local communities and citizens were met. The finalists were announced last year and since then the ten regional partnerships have been working together and have formed the DC10. Alongside Sunderland this involves the Virtual District of Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham City Council and Shropshire County Council who together put forward ‘City and Rural Communities Using IT’, Norfolk County Council, Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County councils, Bristol, Hull and Manchester city councils, Tameside, Milton Keynes and Ealing.

All the authorities involved will exchange knowledge and develop best practice advice on key themes, work with central government to develop centrally funded work programmes, promote digital inclusion to support the delivery of Local Area Agreements, jointly develop bids to EU and other funding sources, identify key issues and lobby for solutions, advise central government, other local authorities and other relevant bodies on best practice in this field and participate in presentations and exhibitions on behalf of the DC10 group.

The Minister for Local e-Government, Angela Smith, said digital Inclusion was an opportunity to solve problems and improve the lives of people and Sunderland should be seen as an example of how the social and digital divide could be bridged and serve as a blueprint for local partnerships for the future, and she added, “All the finalists have led the way in the UK and should be seen as true regional digital inclusion champions. Together as the new DC10 they will continue to galvanise thinking, unleash creativity and raise the agenda, both locally and nationally.”