CatBytes is a CIC (Community Interest Company). We were formed in January 2016. At this time we were volunteers involved in a range of digital projects, such as website building for community groups, and teaching basic digital skills. It was decided that there would be benefits to turning this range of activities into a company which can function as a service to the local community.
CatBytes is focussed on being a benefit to the local community, specifically the community of Lewisham. We teach internet skills, build websites, host websites, troubleshoot network problems and host clubs at our office in Ewart Community Hall. We work with community organisations, churches, Lewisham council, housing associations small businesses. Local knowledge and networking is as important to us as digital expertise.
"The Future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed" William Gibson
CatBytes' aim is to promote digital inclusion. People can be said to be digitally excluded if they lack:
- Access to the resources to go online, such as a broadband connection or a computer or laptop, or a library or other facility that can provide this.
- The basic digital skills to enable them to use online resources
- The motivation to go online, because they feel the internet is not relevant to them or cannot help them
- Trust that the internet is safe for them to use.
There are considerable benefits to people of having access to online resources and basic digital skills:
- The internet is a good means of finding out about the services in local area. Public services are increasingly being moved online. Meaning that the internet is increasingly becoming an essential tool for citizen's in the UK
- The internet can help people save money by cutting household bills or finding cheaper goods an services.
- The internet is a useful means of finding employment.
- The internet can help tackle feelings of isolation. Older people report reduced loneliness with frequent internet use.
The Digital Divide
Every year the Office for National Statistics publishes a report on internet usage in the UK. These reports have shown in the past a significant difference in rates of internet use between those in different groupings. For example, In 2016 89.4% of men had recently used the internet, compared with 86.4% of women. People in rural areas, in part due to lack of access, used the internet less frequently than people living in cities. Only 38.7% of people over 75 were recent internet users, compared with 99.4% of people aged between 16 and 24. 25% of disabled adults had never used the internet. Income levels also affected levels of intenet use.
At Catbytes we try to improve the digital skills of three main groups:
45% of Elderly people report that they do not use the internet out of fear of breaking something, compared with 6% of students. Through our Techy Tea Clubs we encourage elderly people to engage with the internet in an easy going, sociable environment.
Microbusinesses and community organisations
There is a skills gap in internet knowledge within microbusinesses and small community organisations. We understand the difficulties some organisations have with IT related problems, and bridge the gap through our understanding approach to website building, hosting and trouble shooting, which is delivered at low cost
People with a disability
22% of disabled adults had never used the internet in 2017. Our techy tea volunteers are able to help people with visual impairments to use services like talkback. We are just initiating a new piece of work with Lewisham Talking Newspaper to improve our understanding of techniques used by visually impaired people to use the internet.