Residents in North Melbourne have been busy building their digital literacy skills through workshops provided by Housing Choices Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to go online to access critical services while Melbourne remained in lockdown.

From online shopping and banking, to telehealth appointments, many Melburnians started using the internet to access services they would have done in-person before.

For older people with limited digital skills, the crisis was a catalyst for change, forcing them to embrace the digital world or miss out on support they need.

But those who didn’t already know how to get online, they were at risk of being left behind.

This was the dilemma facing many Housing Choices Australia residents…but not for long.

Housing Choices provides stable, affordable community housing to people on low incomes, so they can access education, gain employment, connect to their local community, and improve their life circumstances.

Naomi Board from Housing Choices said the workshops helped people build skills that can change their lives.

‘We noticed that our residents would phone us with their building maintenance requests, despite our encouragement to submit them online for faster resolution,’ Naomi said.

‘We soon learned that many residents didn’t even have an email address, and realised we needed to help bridge that digital skills gap.

With most participants aged over 55, the workshops taught participants how to get the most out of their smart phones, including video-calling, taking photos, sending email and scanning COVID-19 check-in codes.

Importantly, the workshops also taught residents how to avoid online scams.

‘Before the workshops, our residents were reluctant to use the internet due to concerns around security. People with low incomes are even more at risk if they fall victim to an online scam,’ Naomi said.

The residents, who largely live alone, also relished the opportunity to mingle with new people post-lockdowns, reducing social isolation.

‘It was wonderful watching the workshop participants celebrate their individual successes as a group, and encourage each other to learn.

After the workshops, most participants felt more confident using their device for everyday tasks.

‘Increasingly, government services such as MyGov and My Aged Care rely on individuals having access to computers and the internet,’ Naomi said.

‘But you must have the basic skills to get online first.

Know someone who needs help to get online?

Anyone who needs help getting online can visit North Melbourne Library at 66 Errol Street.