Licensees Steve and Nicky Wragg launched the digital space at their Wiltshire pub this autumn after hearing their older customers express confusion at how to use the internet.
After a discussion with the national group Pub is the Hub, the duo felt encouraged to add a service provision to the Green Dragon that would put it at the heart of its 2,200-strong community in Market Lavington.
"We looked at what we had in the village and we thought we could do something digital,” licensee Nicky told The Morning Advertiser.
“The library has one computer but it only opens two days a week now.”
Limited access to library services is growing concern for villages like Market Lavington. A total of 449 libraries have closed since 2012 across England, Scotland and Wales, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), accountants specialising in public services.
Nicky added: “Customers are always coming in and saying 'how do I do this, how do I do that? Most of our bar staff are quite young and they have a bit of savvy when it comes to digital things.”
A survey on the idea garnered a positive response in the village, which has an ageing population. More than half of all people who have never used the internet are aged 75 years and over, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
“These days everything is online but not everyone is,” Nicky said.
Pub is the Hub gave the Wraggs a community services grant of £1,500, meaning the pub spent just £200 to fund a computer, two tablets, a printer and a much-needed Wi-Fi upgrade. However, the community fund exists as a last port of call after commercial, private and charitable funding.
Becoming a digital access hub is a “great way bring people into the pub from all walks of life at a relatively low cost while providing an essential community service,” a spokesperson for Pub is the Hub said.
It added: “At the same time, there are probably local organisations, charities or people who just want to volunteer who could help to provide digital training sessions for those people who want help to get online, book prescriptions and healthcare appointments, shop safely on the internet or Skype their family.”
The Green Dragon's next step is to get the word out by publishing leaflets to be placed in the village post office, market, and surgery.
Pubs interested in setting up a similar project should always consult their community and ask the council for additional support, Pub is the Hub recommended.
Licensees can also investigate Government funding of up to £3,000 to support full fibre connections for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Local groups may also be keen to help – the Old Inn at Mullion, Cornwall, has been able to offer beginner IT workshops for two years now after receiving funding from group SeafarersUK.
Helping to improve the digital skills of regulars is another way for pubs to help tackle rising levels of loneliness. In 2016 to 2017, 5% of individuals reported feeling lonely “often” or “always” to the ONS.
“Not everyone has a computer at home,” Nicky said of her village, but now they can use the computer at the Green Dragon to Skype relatives in other countries.