Hub to offer free IT advice to all

A free helpline, a bursary scheme and £1m worth of volunteer IT support will be key parts of the ICT Consortium's plans for the ICT national hub.

Plans for the hub - one of six centres of excellence set up as part of the Government's capacity-building ChangeUp programme - were revealed at the ICT Consortium's first annual conference last week.

The consortium - a coalition of 30 members, including IT 4 Communities, NACVS and the NCVO - also plans to provide a website of resources, a directory of approved suppliers and consultants, guidance on funding ICT development and an extended network of circuit riders, IT specialists who help a number of smaller organisations that can't afford full-time support.

"The website will be a one-stop shop for ICT - there are no plans for global domination, but it will signpost visitors to other sources," said David Edwards, trust director at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, a member of the consortium's advisory group.

"An expanded circuit rider and pro bono ICT volunteer scheme will make a real practical difference," he added.

Outside the sector, the consortium plans to communicate charities' ICT needs to government and lobby the IT industry to increase charity discounts.

The hub will be funded with £4.5m from the Active Communities Unit. A further £4.5m will be spent on regional initiatives. The hub will work with regional initiatives to develop best practice models and will promote services available at the local level.

The consortium has been involved in a long-running feud with rival group Citra. The two groups are arranging to meet up to see how they can work together after both were criticised in a damning report into the saga by independent assessor David Carrington.

"We expect to meet in early May," said Edwards. "Both groups are keen to put this behind us and move forward."

- See Letters, page 25

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