Imperial College London

What The Tech?! returns to in-person sessions helping local over-50s with tech


Student helping an older citizen use a tablet

Students from the Business School have worked with the Community Engagement team to help local over-50s build their confidence in using technology.

Students from Imperial College Business School have worked with Imperial’s Community Engagement team to help local over-50s in White City build their confidence in using technology. 

"These people want to be connected with the modern world. They know the technical capability is there, they just need a hand." Farial Missi Community Engagement Manager

The free community programme, called What The Tech?!, aims to help older people feel more connected to others by increasing their confidence in using modern technology such as smart phones and laptops. The programme is a direct response to imminent needs around digital exclusion amongst local communities surrounding Imperial’s White City campus. 

Imperial’s Community Engagement Manager, Farial Missi, said “The demand for tech support from local over-50s has been huge. Requests for help range from how to send an email to how to do a Google search. These people want to be connected with the modern world. They know the technical capability is there, they just need a hand from a trustworthy source to navigate it and our students have really built that trust and those relationships.” 

Volunteer Andrew Massamiri is a master’s student in Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management. He worked on the project and said: "What The Tech?! was a highly successful initiative that allowed students to interact with and support elderly members of the community. We all enjoyed chatting with and helping the participants, and many new friendships were formed along the way. The programme was mutually beneficial for both the volunteers and the participants and positive feedback was received across the board. The participant's wild stories and life wisdom were highly appreciated and the elderly volunteers loved learning how to text and email old friends."

He added: “I was surprised at how quickly people can develop a bond despite the age gap. The whole experience was wholesome, and it was great seeing smiles on everyone's faces. I was also surprised to see how the participants were quick to learn and were very invested in these sessions to improve their digital skills.”

  • A 'What The Tech?!' volunteer taking a picture with participants in the community programme
  • 'What The Tech?!' participants listening during a session of the programme.
  • A 'What the Tech?!' volunteer speaking to a participant who is using a smartphone.
  • Two 'What the Tech?!' volunteers speaking to a programme participant.
  • What the Tech?! participants and volunteers taking a group picture.

One local resident, Michael Woof, has lived just round the corner in Shepherd’s Bush for the last 40 years. He said: “Staff at the library showed me the flyer for What the Tech which looked really inviting, so I got up the courage to come down to the Invention Rooms. The help has been fantastic because it’s given me hope now that I can start using my phone, which I didn’t have before. I am still nervous about it – it will take a while for me to learn something strange that’s all new to me – but I am learning which I am really pleased about.” 

The hugely successful programme ran over six weeks at the Edward Woods Community Centre. It was attended by 30 people with 25 student volunteers.

“The one-to-one support is very important.” said one participant. “I very much enjoyed the few weeks of the programme and learned a lot in a short time. The confidence and positive attitude of the tutors was very helpful. I would like to learn a lot more and I really hope the WTT programme will be brought back.”   

The programme was initially launched in 2017 then ran remotely via the phone during the pandemic with staff and students from across the College volunteering to help meet the high demand for support. 

“Once things opened up, we listened to the community and they wanted an in-person programme to not only support digital inclusion but social isolation which is why we teamed up with the Business School for their student volunteers and Edward Woods Community Centre as they were already working with over-50s and and so were well-positioned to support them,” said Farial. 


Ellie Cawthera

Ellie Cawthera
Communications Division

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White-City-Community-Engagement, Volunteering, Public-engagement, Societal-engagement
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