Members of the public wanting to improve their computer skills or access useful online services at Ladywood Health and Community Centre will no longer have to go elsewhere following the installation of free WiFi for visitors.
Despite being commonplace in today’s society, those using the centre had been long used to being told there wasn’t any internet connection – and sometimes resorted to asking if they could use staff computers to access the internet.
But now though, thanks to Birmingham City Council’s Digital Birmingham team and the Government’s Super-Connected Cities Programme, the building on Vincent Street West, is amongst the first Birmingham buildings to go live with safe, secure public WiFi through the scheme.
Using their own devices, visitors – and staff – can access the internet free-of-charge, simply by clicking and connecting to a wealth of information and services that many of us take for granted.
The centre, at which staff from NHS, the council and charities co-locate, is the base for Ladywood Project. The project, which has been running for 20 years, offers advice and assistance to families in an area that is one of the most deprived in the country.
One person already benefitting from the WiFi is Mary McElligott, a user of the Ladywood Project for many years.
Mary, aged 70, lives locally in sheltered housing and is at a stage in her life where she wants to give something back to the project. She now volunteers by helping with cleaning and was a massive help at last year’s Christmas party – where she helped to look after 150 children.
She got a tablet computer for Christmas and has been eager to use it at the centre.
Mary said: “I was delighted when I bought the tablet– but I was a bit worried because I didn’t know how to use it.
“The staff at the centre have always been really good to me and said they would help me learn all of the things you need to know to use a computer properly.
“But they said WiFi was really important because you need to get onto the internet to download apps and surf the internet and when you want to send emails.
“Now the centre has it, I can’t wait to have a go on all the things you can do with the computer.”
Cllr Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for a Green, Smart and Sustainable City, added: “The centre is a great resource for offering support and assistance to people within the Ladywood community.
“Although the installation of WiFi might seem a small measure, it will help open us a whole new range of services and life-improving chances for the people we serve.
“Ladywood is a disadvantaged area and anything that narrows the inequality gap is something I warmly welcome. This will definitely help bridge the digital divide for many people.”
Notes to editors
1. The Ladywood Project is a small community-led organisation and registered charity that acts as a one-stop shop for local residents by providing family or individual support, whether financial, emotional, health-related or social. It has a drop in service three days per week where families get help with their money, enjoy leisure services, trips, play and stay or get more involved in their community.
2. The Wireless in Public Buildings project, run by Digital Birmingham, has been funded by £3.5 million-worth of central Government money from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and is great news not only for those who regularly visit the centre but also for agile workers and staff from partner agencies working together with the council.
3. The project is being managed by Service Birmingham with technical support from O2 and Cisco.
4. To access the WiFi, visitors need to register just once. In device settings, select hotspot ID ‘BCC_Free_WiFi’ and you’ll be prompted to register when you open a browser page. Afterwards, your device will connect automatically, not just in one building but in all council buildings that have public WiFi enabled – and around 200 buildings will be live by the end of March.
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