“The Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity.”

Former United States President Barack Obama

iSandwell is a collaborative project between Sandwell Council, community organisations and residents that looks to encourage the use of digital in the region.

The world is fast becoming digitalised, from the way we do our shopping, looking for work to how we pay our bills. The internet and technology has made our lives faster but we believe it can also be an attribute to making our lives better in sandwell and be able to influence decisions.

Sandwell is a unique part of the UK with it's own issues, here are some key indicators:

13.5% of people in Sandwell have never been online, although this is slightly above the 11.0% national average, indicating that although many of our residents have been online and are regularly accessing information online, there is still some way to go.

Basic digital skills in Sandwell are relatively good coming out at 75% which is just under national average at 77% so it suggests digital literacy is at a decent rate. But in regards to 'use' of digital skills, Sandwell is way under the national average at 50% stumbling at 30% which is also the lowest across The Black Country - In short, findings report residents in Sandwell have digital skills, they just aren't using them.

The average wage per taxpayer in Sandwell earns £18,400 while the national average is £26,884, a long term hope is if residents are better digitally engaged they can use their skills to further their career aspirations and allow better access to jobs.

20.5% of Sandwell residents suffer from either a long term illness or a disability, we hope being more confident with digital would be able to easier access information and health advice.

The community is at the centre of iSandwell and we intend to ensure that continues to be the centre of our agenda. In essence, it is a community development project that looks to include citizens in decisions made in the area, find out what digital support third sector organisations and mobilise our residents to hold us accountable in regards to implementing digital initiatives in the area.

Starting with a robust consultation campaign we want to listen to what people really need in regards promoting the use of digital and what we can do to support community organisations to help them with the already brilliant work they do.

We have put this into practice when we held the first iSandwell Camp this year, inviting local residents, community organisations and Council officers to shape the first sprint of the project - you can watch the video of what happened and download all of the resources here.

We want to learn what really matters to you in regards to getting digital and then ensure iSandwell is working on issues you really care about.

There are a number of ways you can get involved if you are a local resident you can sign up to our Digital Champions programme, local third sector organisations can suggest a digital project that would be really useful to them and local decision makers can help drive the project forward by applying to sit on the iSandwell Commissioning Group.

Also, keep an eye on our website for a range of free to attend workshops and events.

The techy take out:

iSandwell is an integrated community centric smart city project that integrates citizen activism with civic technology, encouraging the use of social innovation in the region to alleviate digital exclusion in Sandwell.