A new pilot announced by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan will streamline access to support to help digitally excluded residents get online.
The Digital Inclusion Service, which will be developed in partnership with the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) and charity Good Things Foundation, will help people obtain devices, skills and affordable connectivity.
An estimated 270,000 Londoners have no access to the internet and a further two million have very limited access – for example, they don’t have their own device or struggle to use online services.
The new service aims to support up to 75,000 people over three years. A one-year pilot will be funded with £545,000 (US$667,000) from the London Recovery Programme, with the aim of creating a sustainable ongoing service.
Khan said: “Every Londoner should have digital access, but the sad reality is that too many Londoners lack the skills, technology and infrastructure to get online easily, preventing them from accessing the tools they need to thrive.”
Research from LOTI found there are more than 100 different initiatives across the capital to address digital exclusion, but these often offer only part of the support people need, which creates complexity for those trying to get online.
Lack of a device is reported as one of the major contributing factors to digital exclusion and the Digital Inclusion Service will encourage large organisations and businesses to donate unwanted phones and laptops to be refurbished.
Free or low-cost mobile connectivity will be offered via a ‘data bank’ and the promotion of ‘social tariffs’ – cheap internet connections from telecommunications firms.
People will also be linked to existing skills offers by Good Things Foundation and other free adult education courses on basic skills.
Genta Hajri, Digital Inclusion Lead at LOTI, said: “Tackling London’s digital divide is a key element in building a fairer and more prosperous city. Current rates of digital exclusion are utterly unsustainable and make other forms of inequality worse.
“By teaming up with Good Things Foundation, we’ll be in a stronger position to support the work of local authorities and the voluntary sector as they seek to ensure no Londoner is excluded from the opportunities and benefits of being online.”
The service will go live in January, following a design process.
Image: Burst on Unsplash
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