Peaks & Plains Race Online for 2012

By Justin Darley | 04/06/2012

Peaks and Plains Housing Trust [], a Macclesfield-based trust with almost 5,000 properties, joined us in training their tenants as part of the  Race Online 2012 [] challenge; an initiative that aims “to make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web”.

As the Race Online website points out, of the 8.7 million adults in the UK who have never used the internet, 39% are over 65. Sigma, a web design company situated in the same premises as Peaks and Plains are taking up this challenge and have begun a program of courses delivered free of charge to the, mostly elderly, residents in their properties. As Sigma MD Hilary Stephenson says:

“Across the team, we all have different experiences of using the web, some for business, some for pleasure, most for both, but all using Skype, Google, Amazon, online banking, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify (and many more) almost unconsciously. We like to think we’re a charitable bunch, helping where we can, reaching non-corporate audiences who need support and diverting our attentions once in a while from our digital desktops to focus on real people. Race Online seemed like the perfect storm of technology, user engagement and social inclusion.”

Sigma have delivered two sessions covering topics such as:

  • Using Google
  • Finding sites to help with hobbies
  • Saving favourite sites
  • Using Skype and social networking sites
  • Setting up a free email account
Usability testing

Feedback from attendees on the courses has been very positive and residents have begun to identify ways in which the internet can improve their daily lives. Ken Black, an attendee on the course, plans to use the knowledge gained to help in finding a holiday but found the gardening advice Sigma helped him to Google:

“even more useful”

One attendee is now the proud owner of her first Gmail account and Sigma demonstrated Skype to astonishment — 

“is it really free!” “but surely I have to pay for the program?”.

In fact one attendee felt that Skype alone justified the purchase of a laptop.

Simon Penaluna, of Peaks and Plains was extremely pleased with the session and commented:

“Sigma conducted the sessions in a professional but friendly and relaxed manner which suited the people who attended perfectly. Everyone was buzzing and enthused when they were leaving the session and it will make a big difference to their confidence when using the equipment back in the scheme.”

Sigma and Peaks and Plains plan to run more advanced sessions for those who would like to delve more deeply into issues such as secure Internet usage – a particular concern for attendees on the first course, but also to look into beginners’ computing courses for those who need more support.