OXFORDSHIRE County Council is to look into the prospect of creating play areas near public computers in libraries to help more people access the digital world.

The suggestion was put forward while the county’s People Overview and Scrutiny committee was considering its Digital Inclusion Strategy. 

The plan is to promote access to good quality and affordable broadband, wi-fi and mobile data, opportunities for digital skills training and support, affordable and good quality devices that can access the internet, providing the ability, motivation, confidence and physical space to safely access the internet and accessible services that are designed to include all service users. 

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Those measures seek to close the digital divide with people who are disadvantaged or vulnerable in other ways more likely to be digitally excluded. 

Councillor Kate Gregory, deputy chair of the committee, said: “Something I saw recently that I thought was really innovative was PC workstations with a play area next to them.

“A parent can go in, put their child in a safe place and get on and do whatever it is they need to. Are we considering innovative solutions like that?”

Claire Taylor, Oxfordshire County Council’s corporate director of customers, organisational development and resources, said: “That is interesting and helpful feedback. As the corporate director with responsibility for libraries, I am going to take that one as a design opportunity.

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“Libraries are a really important part of this, they are challenging us as the corporate body that looks after them for things like really effective and stable wifi so they can really help us with our digital inclusion objectives. It is a first port of call for many people.

“The idea of the digital part and a space for children is really interesting. I am going to take that away.”

Councillor Glynis Phillips, the county’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “Libraries have really moved on from a place where you just borrow books.

“They are really becoming community centres with a range of services. They are all different and reflect the needs of their communities.

“I am really pleased you have found one that is using technology and giving parents the ability to have the time to do what they need to while their children have a play area.”

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Work on the action plan that will carry forward the strategy is underway and will be brought back to the committee for an update in a year’s time.


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