The Pane e Internet Project
Towards a sustainable regional system for digital competence development and inclusion. Pane e Internet (PEI), literally “Bread and Internet”, is the main project for the development of digital literacy and competences and for the promotion of digital inclusion in the Emilia-Romagna region. Currently, PEI is part of the new regional digital agenda Agenda Digitale Emilia-Romagna known as ADER.
Started in 2009 as a pilot initiative, the project has since been funded with a total 3.3 M€ by the Emilia Romagna’s regional government (RER), which has been running it in collaboration with local public administrations and a plurality of other public and private actors. PeI’s past results are available in this video presentation (in Italian).
The strategic goal of the PeI 2014-17 project is to enhance citizens' digital competence and reduce digital exclusion among the project's target groups. This is done by promoting and supporting the establishment of so-called PeI Points by the largest Municipalities and by Municipality Unions, with the involvement of their own resources and other local actors. A permanent and networked system of PeI Points across the whole region will cater for the citizens' digital needs. PeI Points promote citizens’ digital competence development in a life-long-learning perspective and their awareness and critical use of digital technologies and online services, in particular those offered by the public administration.
The PEI 2014-2017 project
PEI’s new phase aims to further extend and make more sustainable the development of digital competence for citizenship and digital inclusion measures in Emilia Romagna, moving beyond the past approach of direct course delivery by RER. Two complementary lines of work are underway to achieve this goal.
RER is promoting and funding the start-up of local networks –called PEI Points- set up by Municipalities and other local public and private actors concerned with digital competence development and e- inclusion. PEI Points are established based on a multi-year work plan and are partly funded with local economic resources. Their activities will therefore have a more continuous and sustainable character.
Along with the creation of PEI Points, through the newly established regional PEI Service Centre, RER is providing a range of free services also to other actors that share PEI’s digital competence development and inclusion goals and approach.RER expects PEI Points and other actors supported by the project to offer the following opportunities to the citizens:
- digital literacy training, comprising a 1st level course aimed to break the ice for absolute beginners with PCs or tablets, and a 2nd level course aimed to enhance the learner’s autonomy in the use of specific applications, in managing Internet safety and other critical issues mostly related to social networks usage;
- digital culture initiatives (workshops, conferences, laboratories etc.) to spread the awareness of new online services (especially e-government services) and to promote the safe and critical use of other digital opportunities;
- digital facilitation services, consisting of one-to-one assistance delivered mainly by volunteers in public libraries, in order to promote long life learning in the community.
A video presentation of the PEI 2014-17 project (in Italian) is available.
Pane e Internet in the regional, national and European policy context
PEI is part of the regional and Italian Digital Agenda and joins European projects and activities.
PEI is part of the Agenda Digitale Emilia Romagna’s axis/priority n.3 "Competences".
The Competences axis addresses the development of digital competences for the following targets and domains: students and schools; workers, entrepreneurs and small-medium enterprises; civil servants; and through the PEI project all citizens, especially those at risk of digital and social exclusion.
With the PEI project, RER contributes to the Italian coalition for digital competences.
PEI has also witnessed one of the first Italian implementations of the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens DigComp, developed by the European Commission.
The regional Pane e Internet Service Centre
The new regional PEI Service Centre plays a crucial role in the start-up and operation of PEI Points and in supporting other actors willing to contribute to PeI digital competence development and inclusion objectives.
The creation of the PEI Service Centre (PSC) is part of the move towards a more decentralised development of PEI activities, with the creation of local PEI Points and the involvement of other local actors. This made it necessary to set up a regional service centre that could support in various ways all these actors and stimulate their horizontal collaboration, and that could design and promote common operational procedures and quality standards in PEI services delivery (training, digital facilitation etc.).
The regional PSC is located in Bologna. It caters in the first place to the needs of the Municipalities and Municipality Unions, which agree to set up a PEI Point.
Staff from the PSC, jointly with the project’s coordinator at RER, make the first contacts and meetings with local councillors and officials. These can be in charge of cultural services, e-government and digital agenda initiatives (where they exist) or have an interest and responsibility on matters addressed by the PEI project. In the start-up phase, the PSC offers advice and support for the preparation of the multi-year activity plan and related budget, required by RER for the launch of the new PEI Point. It also helps to design didactic and other activities and the promotion of the new PEI services. The PSC organises the initial training of PEI Point coordinators and e-facilitators. For the first 1-2 years of operation, on behalf of the PEI Point, it contracts the teachers and tutors for the PEI courses and the speakers and experts for digital culture events. This is RER’s main economic contribution to the initial development of PEI points.Along with existing and new PEI Points, the PSC offers a range of tools and services also to other Municipalities, public libraries and any local non-profit organisations wishing to implement autonomously some of the typical PEI activities such as digital literacy courses, digital facilitation and digital culture events. This offer comprises:
- learning materials published on the PEI Catalogue
- procedures and tools for use in training and digital facilitation activities (e.g. the free-phone booking service, the course register, the attendance certificate and others)
- standard and customizable promotional materials (leaflets, posters etc.);
- information on funding opportunities from regional, national and European sources, also thanks to PEI’s membership in All Digital
- on-demand advice and consulting for the effective implementation of digital competence and inclusion initiatives.
The above PSC’s services are given for free to the PEI Points and the other actors, with the aim to lower their operational costs, increase the sustainability and promote a more homogenous quality of their initiatives.
Pane e Internet’s target customers
PeI’s priority target group is represented by citizens in Emilia Romagna who are 45 to 74 years old and who have never used the Internet. Other groups are also addressed by the project.
The priority of digitally excluded senior peopleThe following are Pane e Internet’s main target groups:
- citizens in Emilia Romagna who are 45 to 74 years old and who have never used the Internet and online services. In absolute terms, they are about 760,000 people (in 2014) or 44% of the population in that age group. Considering the whole population, the share of the digitally excluded in Emilia Romagna is at 27%, whereas 93% of people above 74 years old have never used the Internet;
- immigrants and unemployed people with no or low digital competence;
- citizens who do not make a regular use of the Internet (about 35% of the whole population), any potential customer of digital facilitation services and also adults and young people interested in digital culture events.
A research performed among citizens who had benefitted from PeI’s introductory digital literacy courses and digital facilitation services in 2011-14, showed that their needs go much beyond the initial digital literacy training and Internet access:
- 40% felt that they still had a limited mastery of Internet use
- 60% felt the need to get support (and had already requested it) in order to use the Internet as wished
- 78% were interested in further developing their competences to use the computer and the Internet.
These findings led Regione Emilia-Romagna to design a second level of PEI courses and to develop a modular, flexible offer of additional training opportunities for specific target groups, such as unemployed people looking for a job and immigrants with low education and digital skills.
PEI’s new activities with immigrants
With 537,000 foreign citizens, in 2014 Emilia Romagna was the Italian region with the highest share of foreign population (12.1% against a national average of 8.2%). Half of them are from EU countries, 27% from Africa, 19% from Asia and 4% from America.
As elsewhere in Europe, people seeking asylum and international protection have grown significantly in recent years. In Emilia Romagna, in June 2016 there were 8,000 refugees (6.6% of the 122,000 recorded in Italy), of which 830 were minors.
PEI is currently addressing the digital competence needs of settled immigrant parents with children at school through the Erasmus+ project DGGMLF - Digital Generation Gap in Migrant and Low educated Families (September 2014-August 2017). DGGMLF aims to strengthen the awareness, educational role and related digital competence of parents regarding two important topics in their children’s life and for the family in general. One is safe Internet use; the other is the growing range of public services, which are becoming available only through digital channels e.g. electronic students register, personal electronic health file, services offered by employment and immigration authorities.
Concerning asylum seekers and refugees, in early 2015, PEI supported an experimental digital literacy project for 12 young refugees mostly from the Gambia, with no knowledge of computer usage and a very poor command of the Italian language. Two voluntary associations in Bologna -CittadinanzAttiva and Informatici senza Frontiere- delivered them the PEI introductory digital literacy course, facing various difficulties but also much success (a rich account of this experience, in Italian only, is available here).
Following on this early experience, RER has designed a new PeI initiative for asylum seekers and refugees, with a series of workshops to develop their information and communication digital competences, according to the DigComp framework. This will be done through the creation of an “online suitcase” accessible from a smartphone and other digital devices, filled with relevant digital resources about “myself”, “where I live now”, “the wider world”. The initiative runs from late 2016 to mid 2017.
Pane e Internet’s digital literacy approach
RER has redesigned PEI’s training offer and learning materials according to DigComp, the European Digital Competence Framework for all citizens.
RER’s choice to adopt DigComp for PEI’s development is closely related with the move towards a more decentralised project approach through the creation of PEI Points and the involvement of multiple local partners. RER perceived the risk that a stronger bottom-up drive, along with several positive effects, might also endanger the standardised character and quality of PEI services (training in particular) and their balanced territorial diffusion. RER therefore looked for a common framework, DigComp, which could help to promote a shared understanding and to establish a common language to manage the digital competence development among PEI’s local agents (trainers, e-facilitators, PEI Point coordinators etc.) and their customers.RER used DigComp in the PEI project for four specific purposes:
- to map the existing PEI courses onto the DigComp framework and then redesign their content;
- to produce accordingly the educational materials for the digital literacy courses level 1 and 2;
- to develop a common view of digital competence for citizens among PEI teachers and e-facilitators;
- to identify meaningful themes for digital culture development initiatives.
Previously, PEI’s main training offer was the entry-level, 20-hour digital literacy course, targeting people with no previous experience of computers and the Internet. The course started with the use of keyboard and mouse; moved on to the explanation and creation of directories, folders and files; some text-writing; creation and use of an e-mail account; Internet searches and navigation; some notions of social media and online public services. RER developed a few variants of the standard PeI course over time, reflecting pilot projects (e.g. using tablets rather than PCs in training) and specific initiatives, such as the course for workers and self-employees of the area hit by the May-June 2012 earthquake and the course for unemployed people, developed as part of the Mireia project.
Following DigComp’s proficiency levels notion, RER redesigned PEI’s training offer into two courses, called Digital literacy for citizens level 1 and 2. The new second step also met a common request of past trainees for a follow-up course, to consolidate and deepen what they had learned with the initial 20 hours.
RER found that DigComp does not consider the basic instrumental abilities and knowledge that are typically addressed at the start of PEI’s entry-level course and are a prerequisite to further learning. Following DigComp’s approach, RER therefore defined a new competence area number zero, called “First Access”, whose content is illustrated below (for its nature, this area is not articulated into proficiency levels):
|Competence area||Competence title||Competence description|
|0. The computer and the Internet network|
|About the computer||What is a computer; internal hardware; external devices; software – operating system and applications|
|Giving input to the computer||The mouse; left click, right click, double click; drag and drop; cursor shapes; the keyboard –main keys and combinations|
|Using the operative system||Switching on; the desktop; icons, menus and selections; start button and applications bar; windows – menus and selections; closing, opening, moving around windows; exiting from and switching off the computer|
|About the Internet||What is the Internet and how does it work|
|Connecting to the Internet||Alternative means and ways to connect to the Internet and how to do it|
On the other hand, the analysis revealed that PEI’s original course was missing entirely some DigComp competences, while addressing a few belonging to DigComp’s intermediate proficiency level. DigComp was thus used to decide which competences and proficiency levels should be addressed in the new level-1 and level-2 PEI courses.
The Level 1 course is similar to the previous entry-level one (it now has two versions, one for PCs and one for tablets). Its main aim remains to break the digital exclusion condition, by enabling citizens to use a PC or tablet (the goal of the “First Access” module) in order to start exploring the Internet using browsers, search engines and e-mail.
The Level 2 course targets people who have gone through level 1 or, in any case, who already have some digital experience (assessed through an entry test). This is the course to gain autonomy over the use of applications, to develop a critical view of the information found on the Internet and learn about other risks. It encourages citizens to exploit the potential of social networks for purposes related to their everyday life needs (leisure, work, interests, etc.) and to continue learning by using the web and its communities.
The figure below illustrates how the new PEI courses match with DigComp. A, B, C correspond to DigComp’s three proficiency levels. Green bubbles show DigComp’s competences-levels which are addressed by PEI’s level-1 course and orange bubbles those belonging to PEI’s level-2 course. The “First Access” PEI module does not show in the figure, because it is not part of the DigComp framework.
The choices illustrated in the figure reflect both duration constraints and considerations about what can be reasonably expected, given PEI's typical customers (mature adults and seniors with no or very limited digital experience).
Pane e Internet's digital facilitation service
Digital facilitation services, along with digital literacy courses, make up Pane e Internet’s main offer to develop digital competence and fight digital exclusion among the citizens of Emilia Romagna.
Digital facilitation’s aims, actors and customers
Digital or e-facilitation means supporting a given citizen (occasionally a small group of people with the same problem) in using the Internet to meet his/her needs in everyday life: to communicate, find information, search for a job opportunity, learn something, satisfy one’s interest and so on.
Digital facilitation has two aims: to help a user with limited or no digital skills solving a specific problem by using the Internet (or other digital services and devices); to enhance the user’s autonomy by stimulating and enabling a continuous learning process.
PEI organised such activity into a “service”, which is delivered to any citizen for free. The service runs in libraries or other public and private locations open to the public: municipal one-stop-shop citizen counters, youth centres, recreational centres for elderly people, cultural associations and others. The service’s daily and weekly availability varies, as it depends on organisational and logistical conditions of the hosting organisation.
The service is delivered by e-facilitators, which can be library staff or volunteers. Volunteers are recruited through PEI’s partners and other interested organisations (e.g. the first e-facilitators in Bologna came from the BiblioBologna association, which provides voluntary help in many areas to Bologna’s public libraries); through specific promotion and recruitment events, PEI’s web site and other means (see below).
At July 2016 there were 84 active locations, mostly public libraries, with 83 e-facilitators offering this service with an average availability of 3.1 hour per week.
The service’s main customers are retired people over 65 years old, followed by mature adults (over 45 y.o.) which often seek help related to their work position or are temporarily unemployed.
Organisation of the e-facilitation service
Digital facilitation can be set up in any location with adequate space and equipment.
In public libraries and elsewhere, the service is organised depending on the number of available Internet access points and e-facilitators and on the opening hours of the host organisation. Often the service is by appointment only; otherwise, it is delivered at given times during the week and the year. The person in charge of the host organisation and her staff manage the booking process and organise the work of e-facilitators, according to their availability.
The host organisation usually promotes the service at the local level, while the regional PEI Service Centre promotes the local services through its own channels (web site, social media, newsletter, press releases etc.) and updates the online map of PEI services in Emilia Romagna.
The tasks and training of e-facilitatorsPEI e-facilitators help their customers with the following tasks:
- looking for information with search engines
- performing specific operations, e.g. downloading, filling up or printing etc. a public form
- creating a personal account to access online public or private services
- creating an e-mail account (an e-mail is usually requested for the previous task) and learning how to use it
- recovering or updating usernames and passwords forgotten or seldom used by the customer
- performing specific procedures to use online services: making a booking, checking a timetable, filling an online form etc.
- writing an e-mail or a short text
- performing basic operations with a computer (saving a file, using Print commands etc.)
- performing basic Internet navigation operations
- starting a Skype session to communicate with distant relatives and friends
- creating an account and using online services when searching for a job.
An e-facilitator must be able to perform these and other common tasks. But she should also be able to listen to and make sense of customers’ requests; to answer effectively with clear and simple explanations; to stimulate and support the customers' learning and autonomy.
RER offers a free introductory course on e-facilitation, focused on the above PEI e-facilitation approach and related tools.
The course begins and ends with a 6-hour face-to-face training session, including some group work, held by staff from RER and the regional PEI Service Centre and by experts. In between, learners are offered three training modules -lasting about 4-hour each, available on the regional e-learning Moodle platform called SELF- and the support of a tutor. The modules’ topics are: how to deliver digital facilitation in general; how to set up and deliver mini-courses for small groups of customers; how to promote e-facilitation services at the local level. Each module includes reading materials, individual exercises and some collaborative activities.
RER encourages and expects continuous learning among e-facilitators by offering them occasional updating courses or modules on specific topics (mostly delivered online) and through information exchange and collaboration in the online PEI e-facilitators community (see below).
Students as e-facilitators thanks to school-work alternating training projects
The recent reform of the Italian school system known as La Buona Scuola (The Good School) extended to all upper secondary schools the compulsory school-work alternating training scheme called "Alternanza scuola lavoro". Previously, this only concerned technical and professional education. According to this scheme, during the last three years of secondary school all students must undertake 400 hours (for technical and professional schools) or 200 hours (for lyceums and all other types of schools) of non-curricular activities. These activities are defined in projects agreed by the schools with business companies, local administrations and other organisations offering adequate work contexts.
Following a positive collaboration experience between schools and the public library in Casalecchio near Bologna and given the strong demand from schools for good school-work alternating training projects, RER decided to offer on a larger scale such experience, centred on PEI’s e-facilitation service.E-facilitation activities seem to enhance various competences, especially the so-called “soft skills” which are increasingly important for students’ personal and professional growth:
- adapting one’s support activities depending on the type of customer and context
- becoming aware of what a citizen service is and how it works
- codifying one’s tacit knowledge to be able to “transfer” it to others.
- relational competences
- listening to and receiving a customer’s needs
- communicating effectively by adapting communication to customers’ characteristics
- team work
- managing the e-facilitation service’s operational processes according to PEI project’s rules: collecting customers registration, organising an e-facilitation session, optimising time use with the customer and so on.
Given that PEI’s customers are mostly elderly people, students make also a significant inter-generational exchange experience. In the process of helping others, they become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, how they communicate, the language they use and the implications of all these aspects on service delivery and customer satisfaction.Interested schools get from PEI staff:
- support to identify public libraries and other organisations delivering the e-facilitation service and willing to host school-work alternating training projects
- a training meeting for teachers about digital inclusion, digital competence development according to the DigComp framework and PEI e-facilitation service
- a training meeting with students to present them the e-facilitator role, how an e-facilitation session is run, and some tools and strategies for adult education
- access to PEI’s learning materials and other useful resources to deliver the e-facilitation service.
Interested students can also register onto PEI’s online e-facilitators community and to the online introductory course for e-facilitators, available on the SELF platform. In this case, students are given a deadline to finish the course and are issued an attendance certificate.
In the 2015-16 school year, about 70 students from three schools in and around Bologna were involved in e-facilitation projects lasting 20-30 hours each. The projects ran in five local libraries and in the Intercultural Centre Zonarelli in Bologna (here, students also gave a 6-hour long course on the use of smartphones to elderly people).
PEI e-facilitators’ online community
Access to the community’s online space is through the PEI website and is restricted to authorised users. On the platform, each user has a personalised dashboard, which reflects the user's role in the community and the interests and settings selected by the user.The dashboard provides a range of tools and resources organised into 10 areas:
- personal profile -> where users post their photos, other personal information and make contact with other users
- chronological list of exchanges held with other users
- mutual help and FAQ -> where users ask for support on specific topics and/or give answers to other users' requests. Relevant content from this area is consolidated by the community moderators and fed into the FAQ section
- forum café -> where users have informal exchanges about their activities and interests
- news -> where users find the news published on the PEI website and additional "internal" news from the PEI Service Centre and community moderators
- toolbox and questionnaires-> where users find all the tools prepared by the Service Centre for the operation of the e-facilitation service (e.g. booking sessions with customers, gathering feedback from them etc.) and useful tools designed through peer-to-peer exchanges
- access to the e-facilitator section of the SELF e-learning platform where users join up to manage projects on topics of common interest
- access to the learning resources for e-facilitators in the SELF catalogue.
Pane e Internet’s digital culture events
PEI has developed a series of training and communication activities aimed to promote the digital culture in the regional territory.
The "Digital culture" program is addressed to citizens of all ages for facilitating the acquisition of a general awareness and a vision of how information society technologies (ICT) could improve the quality of life in different ways.The digital cultural proposal in organized in different formats:
- talks/seminars focused on potential benefits and risks in using the ICT
- workshops aimed to share methodologies, best practices and collaboration between different groups of citizens
- laboratories focused on the concrete experiences of technological tools or application.
Since the “Digital culture” is a vast concept, it has been organized in three main themes:
- ICT for the personal and professional development
- the safe and self- confident use of ICT
- the use of technologies for fostering innovation and creativity.
PEI wants to share with stakeholders, communities and citizens a long life learning perspective to the development of the digital competence. Associations, citizens and other organization can submit to the PEI board the proposal of digital culture events.
The digital culture events are organized in collaboration with the Pane e Internet Points in the regional territory, we are constantly upgrading an online catalogue of the events.