Emulating the important community role of traditional blacksmiths, the Digital Blacksmith (DB) is a community skills hub, designed to facilitate the application of digital technology for benefit of the local economy and society - seeding and supporting the development of digital skills. DB staff combine personal communication and digital skills, to help bridge the gap between technology/resources and local needs /opportunities.
The DB earns revenue by applying digital skills to local business challenges – and works with local partners (schools, libraries, charities) to develop the broader community’s digital skills.
- With local schools, the DB can encourage skills development in the upcoming generation. Using apprenticeships, it could connect students with local opportunities.
- Local libraries and other organisations, the DB can facilitate digital skills training for all ages and interests - building bridges and promoting cooperation for inclusion.
The DB also seeks work with external partners (industrial, academic etc.) to access a wider pool of expertise and resources (e.g. including from other DBs, across the region/country). We have been working with the University of Strathclyde to establish a platform for trialling innovative Rural IoT applications.
Services to local business. The DB helps businesses identify how they could benefit from digital technology, to:
- Strengthen their product and service portfolios;
- Improve their operating efficiency;
- Communicate more effectively - with new and existing customers;
- Further their own staff’s digital skills and help them source digital apprentices etc.
DB uses a number of vehicles for furthering skills development:
- Workshops/presentations on applying digital technology– e.g. on smart farming and Internet safety;
- Individual coaching;
- Training content (online/ printed) – for reference and self-guided training
DB seeks to support local community projects:
- Arts projects – proposals being developed by Arran’s new coordinator;
- Heritage/ Nature – a wealth of interesting content to be shared;
- Integrated health and care – growing demand has driven interest in innovation;
- Tourism – connectivity needs to be an integral part of the package;
- Economic development – facilitating extra exposure for community businesses and powerful tools to help monitor and enable greater success.
How do people access the Digital Blacksmith and its services? à As well as being visible online, people will be able to approach the Digital Blacksmith staff in person – at local events/venues. We plan to offer sessions in venues across the community, to facilitate greater access – for businesses and residents.
Further development à We have been working with a researcher from University of Northumbria, to see how the initiative can develop to facilitate community co-design/empowerment to help secure the Island’s future sustainability.
Getting recognition of the need for a rural skills centre from businesses, high school and local people from a variety of backgrounds. We have delivered internet safety sessions to school groups - helping to establish a pattern for the future. We have also provided advice to local small businesses/start-ups and encouraged local people to reach out to elderly neighbours etc. - in cooperation with the local broadband initiative (Arran Broadband).