How to tackle digital exclusion

How to support communities who may be left behind due to the rise in digital services.

Charities have a crucial role in supporting communities and local government to tackle digital exclusion. The voluntary sector’s knowledge in supporting traditionally hard-to-reach groups, such as the elderly and families living in poverty, is key to tackling the digital and social exclusion they face. Latest figures from Ofsted show that at least 1.5 million households have no internet access and 14.9 million people have low levels of digital engagement.

The regulator estimates that around 10 million people lack basic digital skills, such as accessing websites and filling in a form online. Digital inclusion charity, the Good Things Foundation, suggests several ways charities can boost communities’ digital skills and address the challenges they face. Allaying fears around privacy and security are ways charities can get involved. According to the foundation, the threat of cyberattacks is a fear among 1.3 million of digitally excluded people.

Addressing a lack of equipment and the cost of data are also issues charities can help with. More than a third of digitally excluded people do not have access to the right equipment, such as a tablet or computer. Digitally excluded people are four times more likely to be poor, eight times more likely to be over 65 and one and a half times more likely to be from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds. As many as four in ten over 75s are believed to be digitally excluded, warns the foundation.

How charities are getting involved

‘Digital skills bootcamps’

Charities Code Your Future and Resume Foundation are among organisations sharing £21m in West Midlands Combined Authority funding to improve their digital skills of 4,000 people across the region.

These are being provided through free ‘digital bootcamps’ that offer skills including coding, online marketing and cybersecurity. Those being targeted include unemployed people and those looking to develop their skills to improve career prospects.

Tech Lending Fund

The Charity Hubbub has partnered with Virgin Media O2 to lend equipment to organisations supporting digitally excluded groups, including those impacted by homelessness, and refugees. Through its Tech Lending Community Fund it has offered start up grants of up to £120,000 to set up Tech Lending Hubs to loan tablets to residents living in temporary accommodation. Applications closed in March with the successful bids to be announced in due course.

Digital banking for the homeless
Charities supporting homeless people in London are being helped through a tech for good
initiative byFintech company, Pello Capital. This gives homeless people digital banking cards that will allow them to collect donations that can be spent via an approved list of sellers. These NFC (near field communication) cards also give them access to a digital PO box and a temporary address to apply for ID and banking.

The pilot scheme aims to be rolled out across London to support 10,000 rough sleepers.

Supporting digitally excluded patients

NHS Charities Together invested £1.1million in funding to tackle digital exclusion faced by
patients in North West London. Funding is being used by the charity CW+ with the Chelsea and Westminister Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Also involved are Age UK and Open Age to support older people. Through the scheme patients will be offered digital skill training and access to a live webinar channel, offering online support, including mindfulness and exercise sessions.

The project aims to reduce “barriers to digital access” and improve “connection with communities” said NHS Charities Together CEO Ellie Orton.

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