Could You Use Shaftesbury’s Gadget Gurus’ Free Technical Help Or Advice?

If you want help using your smartphone, laptop or tablet, assistance is available each Thursday morning at Shaftesbury Arts Centre. Alfred met a local woman who has been delighted by the free service offered by the ‘Dorset Digital Champion’ volunteers.

Mandy Greenwood helped set up the Coffee Companions social meetings at John Peel Café and The Rising Sun pub. She’s great with people and skilled in arranging events, but Mandy admits she’s not so good with gadgets.

Mandy Greenwood

“I wanted to be able to organise the photos on my phone. Then I was changing my computer and I didn’t want to lose all the information on my old computer,” said Mandy. She walked into a free Dorset Digital Champions session, held in Gillingham Library, and she was patiently shown what to do. “They were helpful in talking me through that,” said Mandy.

Lyndsey Trinder oversees this project for Dorset Council and says that people often ask for help transferring or sending photos. “People maybe have a digital camera, and they use it, but they don’t know what to do in terms of storing a photo or how to attach it to an email and send it someone to show them,” said Lyndsey, who offered examples of frequently heard comments. “Someone gave me an iPad for Christmas, and I don’t really know how to use it. Or I bought a laptop because everyone nagged me into it and now I can’t switch it on.”

The volunteers can assist in both those cases, Lyndsey says. Sessions have been running in Gillingham for some time and they’ve now been launched in Shaftesbury. Each Thursday morning, between 10am and 12 noon you can call into the Arts Centre to have your questions answered or to troubleshoot technical issues.

Lyndsey Trinder

“All of the Digital Champions are volunteers and they are generally people who have a background of working in technology but are now in a position to be able to give something back. They are able to show someone, at their own pace, how they could use that new bit of tech they might have just bought,” said Lyndsey.

Mandy says the helpers are patient and don’t rush you. “They are there because they want to be there. The volunteers go in at particular times and you feel you can take up their time ” said Mandy, who has been a frequent visitor of the help sessions. She said she didn’t want to keep bothering her family for help. “If your son is as busy as mine, they don’t exactly welcome it,” she added.

The helpers are able to explain what the technical terms and jargon means. “They do talk through the theoretical background, if you want to know what you’re dealing with. They’ll explain the internet, or iCloud, or whatever thing you’re not so familiar with,” said Mandy.

Lyndsey says that the Digital Champions can translate the sales blurb that often bamboozles customers in shops, so if a resident wants a new phone contract or laptop, the helpers can explain what’s what in everyday English.

“Use a Digital Champion like your interpreter. Go and ask the question that the shop told you in jargon, and they’ll put it back into a language that you can understand, help you make sense of it and explain it. If you do want to buy kit for the first time, go and talk to a Digital Champion, and they will talk you through what would be a good thing to buy and why. It’s important to understand what it’s going to do for you and why it would help you – not just because, ‘I’ve been told to get this’,” Lyndsey explained.

Lyndsey’s main role is to help Dorset people embrace the internet, which is becoming more essential to life each year, with some government services now being delivered solely on the web. “I work to make sure people aren’t left behind when everything goes online. 8% of the adult population are still not online at all,” she said.

Some Shaftesbury area residents refuse to try online retail, but Lyndsey says it can make life easier. “We’ve had a lot of people who say, ‘I wouldn’t want to do internet shopping’. We had one lady who was formerly a full-time carer. She was a real advocate of using online grocery shopping because it allowed her to buy what she classed as the ‘boring and heavy stuff’ and get it all delivered. If she had the opportunity to go out, she could go out for more sociable shopping experiences. We’ve got a lady with Reynaud’s disease, which affects her circulation. She was able to buy special gloves from Leicester that she couldn’t get locally. Being able to order a prescription online is also a huge time saver.”

Shaftesbury Arts Centre

One of the biggest worries about online activity is the fear of being ripped off. Lyndsey says that the Digital Champions can advise about common online scams and how to avoid them. “All of the Digital Champions understand how cyber security works, and they would be able to talk someone through that and make sure they were as well protected as they could be,” she said.

If you have received an email that appears suspicious, for instance, Lyndsey says you should not respond to it, open attachments or click on any links. She suggests that you bring your laptop or tablet to the Arts Centre for the Thursday session. “Come and see someone and we’ll be able to help,” she said.

Mandy has become a passionate and keen ambassador for the service and recommends that anyone with questions or frustrations should call in. “I would say this is your chance. It’s wonderful that they’re willing and they’re knowledgeable. Don’t be shy. Take your gadget, whatever it is, and they will help,” said Mandy.

The free Shaftesbury Digital Champions sessions are held each Thursday between 10am and 12-noon in the Arts Centre on Bell Street. No appointment is necessary – just drop in – but you can call 01305 221048 to find out more or to confirm you will be attending. Drop-in sessions are also held at Gillingham Library on Tuesdays and Saturdays (10am to 12-noon).