Irish Rural Link (IRL) has resumed its computer training classes ‘Getting Citizens Online’ and ‘IT Skills for Farmers’. Due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, all physical classes had been suspended since last March. The programme will now recommence online, in keeping with government guidelines.

IRL has delivered the ‘Getting Citizens Online’ basic computer training programme, which is funded by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications since its inception in 2011 when it was the BenefIT programme.

‘Getting Citizens Online’ is is aimed at people who have never used a computer before, with the objective of being able to use programs such as Microsoft Word; navigating the internet; searching for information; using government services; banking; and sending emails.

Training is provided by fully qualified computer tutors and IRL supplies a laptop for every participant. The course is delivered over five sessions. Every class is two hours in duration and delivered mornings and evenings to suit trainees.

The key target groups include: older people; jobseekers; people in the rural community; small business owners; those with disabilities; and farm families.

To date, IRL has delivered this type of internet training to over 6,000 participants around the country for all different age groups. Its aim is to deliver training to the most isolated areas including the islands.

In June 2017, IRL launched its ‘IT Skills Training for Farmers’. This is also a free computer training programme with the overall aim of getting more farmers online. This programme is also funded by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.

Under the grant scheme, farmers who have never used the internet will be provided with 10 hours of classroom training, free of charge. The digital skills for farmers training 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.

The programme covers topics such as: farmer registration calf and herd register; computer literacy; internet search; setting up email and online banking. Training is provided by fully qualified computer tutors fully equipped with ‘train the trainer’ training on by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The ‘IT Skills for Farmers’ training takes place over a five-week period with one two-hour class per week. Classes are run nationally and mainly in the evenings, tailored to the availability of farmers.

During the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the tutors delivered a buddy system with past participants who were cocooning to refresh their skills and keep them in touch with family and friends through Skype.

‘Incredible feedback’

Mary Keyes, programme co-ordinator, said that the feedback IRL received from participants of the ‘buddy system’ was incredible.

“Participants valued it so much at this time to stay in touch with family and friends and it did help ease some of the loneliness they experienced at the time,” she said.

Gerry from Westmeath said that the buddy system has been a lifeline for him since availing of the training last April. “I am 85 years-of-age and living on my own in rural Ireland.

“It has helped me stay in touch with family and friends and kept me sane through the long winter,” he said.

Francis from Kildare said he had been cocooning since last March as he has an underlining health condition.

I have not seen family or friends for months. Thanks to IRL’s buddy system, I no longer feel isolated. I can now finally use my laptop which has been in the corner for over two years. I keep in touch with my friends in the community through weekly Zoom calls where we have quizzes; bingo evenings and knitting classes. We have also set up our own women’s group online. This all has been possible thanks to IRL’s buddy system. I am very grateful.

The recommencement of both programmes, Mary said, is extremely welcome. “We know there are many out there eager to get online to connect with family and friends. Our tutors are also delighted to get back to helping people use a computer.


“It is also very timely that classes are resuming with the announcements of the closure of some Bank of Ireland branches across the country and the departure of Ulster Bank from the Irish market,” she said.

“With many small rural towns and villages left without banks, these classes will equip the participants with the skills and confidence to do their banking online along with other government services.”