Wicklow County Council has allocated €45,000 in grants to address people who are missing out on services, communication or social interaction due to a lack of skills or access to equipment and the internet.
The grants scheme is part of the work of the County Wicklow COVID-19 Community Response Forum and of the implementation of the County Wicklow Digital Strategy.
Frank Curran, Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council and Chair of the COVID-19 Community Response Forum, said the availability of grants helped address digital poverty in the county.
'Many crucial services are now being delivered online because of COVID-19 restrictions and this is a trend that will continue into the future. However, many people are experiencing difficulty in accessing services because of a lack of digital equipment or access to wifi.
'This fund is aimed at enabling organisations to purchase vital equipment such as tablets, laptops and dongles that can be accessed by those in most need of them. This is also fulfilling a core aim of the County Wicklow Digital Strategy,' said Mr Curran.
There was a large response to the funding call with over 30 applications received, most of which were eligible and received funding.
Rena Byrne, Nurse Manager with Carnew Community Care, illustrated the difference that a scheme like this can make.
She said: 'Yesterday one of our residents received a six-month free trial of a 'Grandpad' (an iPad for older persons). The joy on her face was priceless when she dialled up a web call and saw her daughter and her grandchildren in the UK for the first time in a year.
'I am hoping to invest in a Grandpad for all 26 residents and also expand it out to our wider day membership. Drawing down funding for this IT investment will be invaluable in terms of maintaining connections with family and friends and lessening the impact of social isolation for all our residents and day members.'
There were a number of conditions which each project had to meet in order to qualify for a grant. The projects had to enable on-line education, re-skilling or training for disadvantaged groups, or enable online youth work or mental health interventions. Projects which support vulnerable families, those with disabilities, those living in Direct Provision or fight isolation for older people were also looked upon favourably.