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It’s hard to imagine a time when technology and computers didn’t dominate our lives – at home, in work and during our leisure time.

We shop online, catch up with our favourite television programmes online, renew library books online and find local tradesmen online. Sometimes it can feel that the world would stop tomorrow if someone pulled the plug.

Though it might sometimes feel that there’s no escape from technology, being computer literate does have lots of benefits. There’s no doubt the internet has transformed the way people communicate with each other. Nowadays, it’s just as easy to chat to your grandson in Australia as it is to your next door neighbour.

Making the connections

Many people meet up with like-minded friends online, using free social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ (there are many more) or joining online forums. Most organisations now have a Facebook page where they share news and information. You could ask a friend or relative to show you how to join.

Free internet access

You don’t even need your own computer to use the internet. Most libraries have computers which you can use free of charge (check if you need to book in advance) and most mobile phones and tablets are now able to access the internet in so-called wifi zones. You'll find them in local cafes, pubs or community centres., even on trains. There’s not usually a charge (though you may have to ask for a password).

Getting started

If you’re completely new to computers, there’s plenty of help available to get you online and chatting. Local adult education centres often run courses for beginners and if you live in a Communities First cluster, there may be free support to get online at your local community centre.

Get Online in Wales is a website managed by Digital Communities Wales which lists all the places in Wales where you can access a public computer for free. At many of these places, you can also get help from a member of staff or even take a beginner's computer course.

The BBC Webwise site has plenty of information to help you improve your digital skills, including written guides and short videos. There is also advice about online safety and keeping your personal information safe.

Silver Surfers has online tutorials for people over 50 who wish to develop their computer skills.

Remploy offers online training to help anyone with a disability to improve their digital skills.

eAccessibilityWales provides useful information to about computers and computer settings and computer software to people with disabilities:

RNIB Cymru can help blind and partially sighted people to use computers and get onto the internet. Call: 029 2082 8500 or email: getconnected@rnib.org.uk.

Last updated: 21/12/2016