Aruj Haider, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Westminster City Council

Westminster City Council (@CityWestminster) has today (21 Oct) announced the launch of the Digital Academy, which will see a range of tech partners including @Microsoft, @O2 and @Google work with the Council to help combat digital exclusion.

The Academy is the first step in Westminster’s Smart City programme, and offers anyone who lives or works in the city the chance to improve their digital skills.

Bringing together diverse learning opportunities, the programme will build citizens’ digital skills and foster a culture of learning, innovation and empowerment across Westminster.

As part of Westminster’s drive to become a smarter city, the Academy includes a range of programmes to reach the most digitally excluded, starting with the city’s youth and older populations, as well as local businesses.

For younger people, Westminster will be hiring 9 candidates from diverse backgrounds as part of the Tech Lions Talent Programme; they will be given the opportunity to work within the Council in tech roles and spend time at leading tech companies to super-charge their careers. Additionally, the city’s Smart Schools competition will see project partner Microsoft host a day of activities at local schools with inspiring prizes on offer, including experience days at Microsoft’s offices, to encourage young people to explore careers in tech and gain confidence in their digital skills.

The Academy will focus on tackling digital exclusion amongst older members of the community. Westminster has already begun to recruit local Digital Ambassadors to take part in their train-the-trainer scheme which will see them go on to help other residents take on digital tasks.

With a focus on local businesses, the council has partnered with Ontix to provide connectivity at local markets and the Rebel Business School to teach local market traders how to create a presence online to boost their businesses engagement and profit. These projects will be brought together in an online hub which will work in tandem with community centres to support those looking to improve their digital skills for personal or business growth.

Throughout the following months, each of these programmes will be holding engagement events and competitions to inspire the community to become more confident online.

Councillor Paul Swaddle, Cabinet Member for Finance and Smart City at Westminster City Council said:

“Today’s launch of the Digital Academy gives our community opportunities to come together, inspire each other and to learn the digital skills they need to seize every opportunity the city has to offer. It’s a big step towards making sure that nobody feels excluded from the digital world we live in. This is just the start of a long-term initiative to make Westminster a world-leading Smart City and we hope that we can bring everyone along on this journey to learn together and create a more empowered community in the process.”

Commenting on the initiative, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Aruj Haider said:

“We’re thrilled to be kickstarting the Smart City programme with the launch of the Digital Academy. Becoming a truly smart city is all about putting the needs of Westminster’s citizens, businesses and communities first. Our Digital Academy does just that – it delivers real, practical support, opens up opportunities that were previously out of reach and gives citizens the skills they need to thrive in our connected city.”

Digital Academy is a part of Westminster’s Smart City initiative to create an inclusive smart city for anyone who lives, works or visits the city.

The initiative will eventually touch on every aspect of Council activity but as it is only at the start of its journey, the initial aim is to use data and technology to improve the community, environment and the lives of the people who interact with Westminster.

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