Suffolk Libraries has teamed up with Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils to help residents get online with a new iPad lending scheme.
26 new iPads, all with 4G internet connectivity and a range of pre-installed applications and web links, are now available for free to anyone in the two districts to borrow. They will be based at Stowmarket, Hadleigh, Sudbury and Needham Market libraries.
The pilot project, which will last for a year, has been made possible thanks to funding from the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, with additional support from the councils. It aims to help reduce the level of digital isolation in the districts and enable residents to access and navigate the internet when they need.
The new iPad lending scheme coincides with Get Online Week, which runs from 18-24 October and aims to support people in improving their digital skills.
Anyone wishing to borrow one simply needs to have a Suffolk Libraries account and sign up to the user agreement. The iPads can be borrowed for up to three weeks, and as they already have inbuilt mobile internet, residents can get online even if they don’t have an internet connection at home.
Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said:
“We’re delighted to be working with Babergh and Mid Suffolk to help more people in the area get online. It can be tough to get by if you’ve not got some way of connecting to the internet to perform tasks like job-seeking, applying for benefits or staying in touch with friends and family, particularly in rural areas.
We know people will need even more help after the pandemic and this is one example of how Suffolk Libraries can help by working with other organisations to develop innovative new services.”
Cllr Alastair McCraw, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for customers, digital transformation & improvement, said:
“This project is another practical example of how we’re working in partnership with Suffolk Libraries to provide joined-up, innovative, value for money services for our residents. It also complements our existing joint services at Sudbury and Hadleigh Libraries, and at Shotley Village Hall, which will play an important role in our upcoming roll out of our digital support programme.
“We recognise there can be varying barriers for people getting online, and I hope this project is one of many ways we can support people to get online in a way that suits them, ensuring no one gets left behind.”
The scheme will form part of the councils’ digital support programme over the coming year - helping to improve skills and reduce digital isolation across the two districts. It also further builds on the iPad loaning service and laptop loaning service already available in several other Suffolk libraries.