In this digital age, more and more services are being provided online. Services such as state benefits are now mainly managed online. Some, such as Universal Credit, are managed wholly online with no access in any other way. Banking is now largely online and shopping, whether it be for clothes and shoes or for food and the basic necessities of life can now be bought online.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability or the knowledge to access these services. Many people are starting to be left behind. Some people simply cannot afford the luxury of a computer, some simply don't have the knowledge. Others may not have the infrastructure to be able to access these services (ie housing, finances etc). In and around Aldershot there is precious little help available to the local community to access these online services. There are internet cafes but these are mainly BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). There are local libraries but there is no support to help people to use the machines and navigate the intricacies on the 'net.
Hand-in-hand with this, is the problem of affordable hardware. Although computers have come down in price over the last few years, they are still out of the price range of many families and individuals. Having the knowledge to access the net is useless without having the necessary hardware. There is also the problem of affording to maintain that hardware, or repair existing hardware without spending large sums of money.
One of the primary problems of long term unemployment is the difficulty trying to get back into paid work. This could be down to physical or mental health issues, or simply age or other factors. A volunteer work placement provides a gradual reintroduction to the world of work (taking account of physical and/or mental health), and enables the volunteer to gain extra training and experience they may not be able to obtain otherwise
This is where Athena Community Technologies comes in.
ACT has been set up to address all of the above problems by a group of local people who have first hand experience of many of the above issues.
With a suitable High Street location, we will be able to provide free internet access for the local community, coupled with the necessary support and assistance for those less able to navigate the 'net.
We will be able to collect, refurbish and sell useable desktop and laptop computers at a very low cost complete with operating system, keyboard, mouse and monitor (for desktops).
We will be able to provide a subsidised repair service to enable low-income families and individuals to get their existing computers repaired without costing them a fortune. There will also be a field service to collect, repair and return for those who cannot get out or have difficulty getting around.
Aside from the four core staff, all other staff will be voluntary, providing people with work-experience opportunities and training in IT repairs, administration, customer service etc, with the aim of helping them back into paid employment. Many of the volunteers will come from the local JobCentre Plus or local charities working with young people or the homeless.
With your help, we can build a resource that everyone can use, and maybe make a difference in people's lives.