By Sharon Sanders, Programme Manager – Digital Inclusion Programme, Bradford Council
In the UK, 10 million people lack the very basic foundation skills needed for our digital world (Lloyds Bank EDS, 2021).
Access to the internet is an essential part of everyday life. Sadly, there are many individuals who do not have access to a device, the internet, or the skills to do things online. This impacts on their ability to connect with others; applying for work; registering for housing; and accessing GP services.
In Bradford district and Craven we know that a lack of access to digital connection causes harm to individuals and families. It affects some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our communities who are already struggling financially, with health, unemployment, access to education and housing.
The lack of access to a digital device, the internet and basic digital skills are key indicators of individuals who are digitally excluded. The strongest indicators for vulnerability are often:
Bradford’s approach to tackling digital inclusion
We believe that everyone across the district should have access to a device, the internet, and the skills to thrive in the digital world.
To support this ‘A Digital Inclusion Programme’ was established for the district in 2021. A working group was created consisting of a range of partners including Public Health, Social Prescribers, the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS), the Reducing Inequalities Alliance, NHS, Adult Social Care, Children’s Services, DWP, Libraries, Locality Teams, Housing, University, Community Partnerships, Primary Care Network and others.
The group has led on and contributed to a number of initiatives which include but are not limited to the following:
- Provided 3,000 devices to children and young people across the district to support with their education
- Secured access to Digital Champion Training via Digital Unite and Barclays Digital Eagles. Supporting organisations to develop their digital skills to help others for free
- Accessed social value in commercial contracts to provide free digital support in the form of internet connectivity, devices and training
- Creation of a Digital Inclusion Index that provides local insight to enable the development of targeted digital support across the district
- Built strong networks across the district, regionally and nationally to promote and further develop digital inclusion opportunities
- Secured a seat on the NHS Bradford Craven and Airedale Digital Inclusion Board and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Digital Working Group. Maximising on the opportunities for collaborative working and learning from others
- Secured funding to put Digital Inclusion Officers in our communities from 2024. Building the local connections for collaboration and delivering support to reduce the digital divide.
How you can be involved
If you work with people that need support to be included in the digital world, I can help you. The need for access to a device; the internet and the skills to function in the digital world should be a basic right.
One thing you can do today is register your organisation with the Good Things Foundation. A national charity with a mission to fix the digital divide for good. This will give you immediate access to an online learning platform “Learn My Way” plus free sim cards and devices for you to distribute to those who need support. If you register today and join their National Digital Inclusion Network, you can access grant funding as it is released.
If you would like to be part of the Digital Inclusion Working Group, Access Digital Champion Training, be notified about free devices, or learn more about how we can work together to reduce the digital divide for Bradford please email me: Sharon.firstname.lastname@example.org