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Koekeltech, digital technology at the heart of local life in Brussels

In this interview, we will find out about the "Koekeltech" social economy project and the DPS at the Employment Service of Koekelberg, a community association located between Simonis and Etangs noirs. Project coordinator Stéphane M shares his vision of the initiative's many impacts on the district. From socio-professional reintegration to digital inclusion for senior citizens and digital transformation support for the youngest members of society, our association has positioned itself as a key player helping to reduce the digital divide and energise local life.

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Hello Stéphane, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Let's start with the first question: what impact can you see or measure in your district since the DPS opened?

Hello, I'm delighted to be able to talk to you and share the work of the Koekelberg Employment Service, and in particular the "Koekeltech" project, located at 631 Rue de l'Eglise Sainte-Anne.

The Koekelberg Digital Public Space (DPS) was officially accredited by the Brussels-Capital Region in 2019. The impact of this human-scale project is twofold. Firstly, internally, our status as a social economy enterprise enables us to focus our efforts on the professional reintegration of job-seekers through work experience as supervisors/trainers. Our supervisors develop technical, social and interpersonal skills by coming to work for people experiencing a digital divide in the district. This enables them to gradually get their feet back on the ground, consolidate their skills, regain their self-confidence and then re-enter the job market. Furthermore, we have been growing and increasing our staff since 2019 (target audience in the social economy).

The other significant impact is being felt by local residents! Our DPS gives them access to online information and services to improve their digital skills. High-quality equipment and skilled DPS facilitators are available to the public.

We also support them in their administrative procedures and/or job searches. Our structure therefore plays a major social role in promoting socio-professional integration on a local scale. 

The Municipality of Koekelberg has always believed in and supported the "Koekeltech" project and in particular the Alderman for employment, who is closely involved in the field to ensure that the projects meet the expectations of Koekelberg residents.

Who are your audiences?

We have two types of audience. On the one hand, those looking for independent Internet access and the ability to print documents, often related to their job search. On the other hand, those who need almost personalised support or guidance to assist them in their research and development. We often play a supporting role for the municipal authorities, helping citizens to browse and find information online. We also find that our involvement can speed up the process of certain administrative requests.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic had any impact on your business?

Definitely. We were growing fast before the pandemic, with around 3,500 visits a year. Our training courses continue to attract a diverse audience. It is also important to note that we welcome more young people onto our premises for training courses, while our older public is more likely to attend the LISA2 municipal branch.

What are the main difficulties you encounter in your work?

Our challenges are not limited to technological difficulties. We also have to deal with language barriers, as we welcome people who are new to the country or experiencing a digital or social divide. The cultural, linguistic and gender diversity of our team means that we can find a solution to every public request. Our aim is to offer them the same services, while overcoming these obstacles. We also have to deal with accessibility and mobility problems for some of our users. In response, we take a proactive approach, reaching out to them to meet their specific needs, which often go beyond the initial problem!

How does the DPS adapt to meet changing needs for digital skills?

Our approach is to tailor our services to each individual's specific needs. For older people with little or no digital experience, we aim to help them demystify certain technical aspects and make them more accessible. As far as job seekers are concerned, it is crucial that we keep them informed about new trends and practices in the job market. This sector is evolving rapidly and we must adapt to these changes.

We also hold monthly digital drop-in sessions close to the Basilica, in partnership with the Koekelberg Public Centre for Social Welfare (PCSW), for example at Platoo de Koekelberg's "Le Café citoyen", where the public is mainly made up of elderly people with accessibility problems.

Koekeltech also offers training, personalised coaching and private tuition tailored to local residents and taking into account the specific needs of each group. On the initiative of the alderman for employment, we have now launched a Saturday morning office automation training course for workers and students wanting to develop their digital skills free of charge outside working and school hours.

We also place particular emphasis on digital responsibility by addressing future environmental limits and challenges. 

Koekeltech responds to specific requests for IT training (office automation, electronic counters, etc.) from partners such as the Brussels PCSWs, for which we train people, both in groups and individually, under Art. 60 contracts, as part of their skills acquisition plan. 

In addition, we have been working with service voucher agencies such as Ménage et Co, EkoServices and Start People in Brussels for a number of years. We provide them with training to promote digital autonomy. We have obtained regional approval to offer these training courses and have developed modules tailored to this growing demand. This initiative also responds to a ministerial request to provide 15 hours of digital training. Digital autonomy can be defined as a person's ability to effectively use digital tools and skills to engage, keep informed and actively participate in modern society. These courses are reimbursed by the Fonds de Formation des Titres-Services of the Brussels-Capital Region. 

Do you have any other needs or expectations for improving your services?

Although our 17-strong team operates fairly autonomously, we are aiming for more coordinated communication across the whole of Brussels. This communication would focus on presenting our missions within the DPSs, promoting our training courses, highlighting our actions and developing our teams. It is vital that we invite citizens to discover our premises and activities.3


- The ASBL will soon be moving to 39 Rue Jean Jacquet

2 - LISA: Local Integrated Antenna

3- Ed.: the dynamic, smiling team consists of three full-time equivalents and around 14 people with reintegration contracts.