Do you know that an incredible 16% of County Durham adults have never used the internet, and that 25% lack basic IT skills? 

In this day and age, such computer illiteracy can cause people enormous problems, ranging from overpriced utility bills to problems with banking to making it harder to find jobs. 

But help is available thanks to a Chester-le-Street based project, which has just been awarded a grant to help it expand its work. 

The Online Owls programme – which is run by Citizens Advice County Durham – has received £15,000 from Karbon Homes. This cash should help the project get thousands more people in County Durham confident with computers.

Online Owls has been active in Chester-le-Street since 2014, teaching computer skills to both youngsters and adults.

The chief executive of Citizens Advice County Durham, Neil Bradbury, said, “This grant enables us to expand the service into new areas targeting a wider range of residents, including 4.500 Karbon Homes properties, in Durham and Chester-le-Street and also helps to address the large digital divide between owner-occupiers and social housing tenants.” 

“The lack of ability to utilise and engage digitally leads to higher utility bills, problems with benefits and banking, a lack of knowledge about community events and lower employment and health outcomes.” 

An Online Owls student, Audrey Vasey, said, “I’ve learned to use my laptop, to be more adventurous in finding my way around.” 

“I had thought that if I didn’t know how to do/find something then I couldn’t do it. I’m not now afraid that I’ll do the wrong thing because I’ll be able to undo it.”

“I used to go into my laptop with some trepidation. Now I enjoy using it with confidence. But I still have a lot to learn!”

Another student, Gary Ledger, said, “Since I started using a computer about two years ago, I have learned a lot of things: what I can do, where I can go for help and information.”

“All this is with the help of online owls. When I first started, I was afraid to even touch a computer in case I did some damage, but not any more.”

For more information about Online Owls, you can visit or telephone 0191 385 1436.

(Featured image courtesy of, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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David writes about local news, thought provoking stories, and yearns to capture the community spirit with a unique writing style.


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