Farmers who are not tech-savvy are being urged to avail of free computer classes being offered through Irish Rural Link, the national network representing the interest of rural communities.

Irish Rural Link is currently running two computer training programmes. One is specifically for farmers who have never used a computer.

The aim is to get them online in advance of payments moving online from 2018. The other is a general beginners’ class.

With the closure of banks and post offices in many smaller towns and villages, and with the move towards banking, paying bills and public services online, Irish Rural Link saw an increasing need for more people to get online.

‘Getting Citizens Online’ has been running since January, with over 700 people trained to date.

The initiative replaces and builds on the BenefIT training scheme. Irish Rural Link delivered it to over 4,500 participants around the country, and to the islands, for different age groups.

For older people, and others living in rural areas, the classes not only teach them how to bank and pay bills online, but are often a social outlet. They also help them to stay in touch with family and friends who may be living abroad or in other parts of the country, through Skype and email.

In May of this year, Irish Rural Link launched the computer training programme for farmers – ‘IT Skills for Farmers’.

With payments from the Department of Agriculture to farmers going online from next year, and warnings that farmers will risk losing payments if applications for schemes and payments are not made online, this programme is timely.

The overall aim is to get farmers online in advance of these new regulations. The programme is designed to provide farmers who have never used the internet with the confidence, motivation and skills to reap the benefits of participating in today’s digital world.

It will cover topics such as: farmer registration; calf and herd registration; computer literacy; internet search; setting up email; and online banking.

Both computer programmes are provided by fully qualified computer tutors and take place over a five-week period with one two-hour class per week.

Under the grant scheme, those who have never used the internet will be provided with 10 hours of classroom training, free of charge.

The courses, which are funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, are being run on a continuous basis around the country.

To book a place on the programme, contact Mary at: 090-6482744.