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The Interview: Meet our Digital Participation Officer

Jim Gibb is the Council’s new Digital Participation Officer. Working alongside the Libraries, Information and Culture Team, Jim came on board earlier this year to help support more citizens and community organisations to realise their digital potential.

His work is an important building block of the Council’s evolving Digital Strategy. We caught up with Jim to find out how he is helping to shape the strategy and make digital exclusion a thing of the past.

Q: Welcome to the Council Jim. Can you tell us a little about your background.

A: I’d previously worked with NAC Libraries on the Makerspace project, bringing technologies like 3D printers and virtual reality into the Garnock Valley. That role was to support the local community and empower them to use digital technology while increasing its accessibility across the area. My new post has a much wider remit in that it’s across all six localities and encompasses using a whole range of digital technology to enhance the quality of life for local residents.

Q: What is the main role of a Digital Participation Officer?

A: Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 17% increase in customers using the Council’s digital services. We’re all relying more than ever on digital technology so it’s crucial that we help to support people to access the online services and devices they need to give them the confidence and opportunities to remain digitally connected.

My main job role is working alongside local community groups and organisations across North Ayrshire to help them to become more digitally savvy. I find out what support is needed by assessing existing equipment and understanding knowledge gaps so we can then tailor bespoke solutions such as knowledge workshops, helping to apply for funding and providing technical support sessions to find better ways of working so communities can fully realise their digital potential.

Q: How does your role relate to the Digital Strategy?

A: The Council’s vision is to continue to be a leading organisation defined by excellent and innovative services. To do this, we understand that our services must be agile enough to rapidly adapt to the changing needs of North Ayrshire’s residents, its businesses and workforce.

My role is informed by the Council’s Digital Strategy. It’s my job to help people living and working in North Ayrshire to get digitally connected and help residents and our colleagues to fully embrace the advantages of digital technology.

Nowadays, being able to use things like websites and apps is such an important part of modern society however not everyone has the knowledge or resources to be able to access these. A big part of my job is working  closely with the Council’s community partners and providers to improve digital access and participation across each of our six localities.

I do however also support people who are well versed in digital. For example, I’ve recently been working with staff from the Community Learning and Development Youth Work team supporting them in delivering technology in a library setting to schools. After the summer holidays, I hope to expand this training to cover interesting areas such as 3D printing and games design to encourage young people to be more active in their digital future.

Q: What is the Council currently doing to improve digital access/participation?

A: While home internet access in Scotland has increased to a high of 88 per cent (Scottish Household Survey, 2019), there are inequalities in both internet use and access between different groups and communities. I’m helping to close this gap by working with other Council officers and community partners to improve access to digital services so that we can help those who are currently digitally excluded to get online and gain the skills they need to use digital devices and improve the quality of their lives.

Q: Is there anything that North Ayrshire Council is doing differently that others can learn from?

A: The Council has been at the forefront of digital inclusion for a number of years now, with the library service for example upgrading their Wi-Fi offering and moving from desktop PCs to laptops and smaller devices offering more flexibility to the public.

There’s already a range of Council resources available to build digital confidence and promote the benefits of being digitally active. This is what really encouraged me to come on board.

One of the recent success stories I was most impressed with, was the work the Connected Communities team did to support Syrian refugees settling in to North Ayrshire where bi-lingual volunteers were recruited to help with digital access and participation. The video featured tells you all about this great case study.

Not only did the project help the residents to acquire digital knowledge and skills, it also gave them confidence to overcome language barriers to do things we take for granted such as ordering groceries online or booking a doctor’s appointment. The team also submitted a bid to Connecting Scotland for digital devices where 2 Chromebooks were provided to each of the Syrian families.

I think this approach is something other local authorities should definitely consider especially with the Ukraine Refugee Re-settlement Scheme currently underway. Hopefully, we will have the privilege soon of helping more refugees to feel embedded, connected and supported in the communities of North Ayrshire in the near future.

Q: What digital initiatives will you be supporting over the next year?

A: We have a range of initiatives and workshops being rolled-out over the coming months to help residents gain the essential skills they need to live their lives confidently and connected.

The digital audit of community centres is ongoing with the ambition that everyone has access to free internet and digital support in their local area. Libraries are playing their part too with their recent upgrade in digital device provision and Wi-Fi access.

Do you know a resident that needs digital support? If so, see Jim’s round-up of helpful digital learning resources and if in doubt,  contact him directly via email at

  1. Visit a local library – find your nearest here.
  2. Get in touch with the Community Learning Team via the Adult Learning webpage here.
  3. The Learn My Way  website offers free digital skills courses to stay safe and connected.
  4. Business Gateway offer a range of free classes from web design to using social media for marketing for businesses.
  5. Local organisations such as TACT (The Ayrshire Community Trust) and CLASPS (Community LED Action & Support Project) offer classes and free advice on basic IT skills.
  6. North Ayrshire Council website – our website offers virtual info on a range of subjects including accessing benefits, community funding, grants and allowances for young people in education and advice on health and social care among others.

Q: Can you help to upskill people to be more cyberaware?

A: Yes. Cybersecurity training is something I’m going to be delivering over the summer months. We already offer this type of training to community associations, helping them to provide a safe online environment for their members. Over the next few months however, we will be supporting families with a series of digital awareness and cybersecurity sessions in each locality. The aim is to show parents, grandparents and carers the online resources that are available and how we can support them to access them.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: Across the Council we also already have a range of digital experts across our Services. If you have an interest in digital and have some time and expertise to share, it would be fantastic if you could help us out to revive and expand our digital champions network and play your part to help those who are struggling with basic IT skills.

If you know someone who needs digital support or are interested in helping us out with your digital know-how, please drop me an email:

I hope that by working and collaborating together we can all do our part to tackle digital exclusion and help more people in our communities to access the tools and devices they need to be better connected and live happier, confident and social lives both on and offline.

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