Why getting online must be a right, not a ‘nice to have’
This 12th September is the first End Digital Poverty Day. Charlotte, our Partnerships & Impact Director shares what we’re doing and why it’s about equal opportunities for all.
Digital poverty is more than just going without a computer. It’s not having reliable broadband in your area to keep in touch with loved ones. It’s being unable to afford enough data for your mobile phone. It’s not being taught the digital skills to bank online. This isn’t a small problem, affecting a few people. A quarter of young people don’t have access to their own computer. More than half of people offline can’t afford an average monthly broadband bill.
We polled UK adults earlier this year, and only 1 in 5 had heard of digital poverty. Raising awareness of a problem is one of the first steps to solving it. That’s why at In Kind Direct, we’re raising our voice and supporting the first End Digital Poverty Day. We stand with the fantastic Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA), who have launched this day as part of the roadmap to ending digital poverty by 2030.
In Kind Direct works with over 6,000 local charities, community groups and schools who make up our charitable network. We provide the most needed products for their communities. Together, we reach 365,000 people every week. In our June network survey, almost half were supporting people experiencing digital poverty.
“Tablets were given to young people who have now accessed either college courses or entered into employment… They were largely living in the care system, with foster parents or other members of their family… Without these the young people would have struggled.” Local Works, Hull
I recently visited one of our network partners, a community centre near Wigan. They support a number of their older local residents to write their wills and access social security benefits. These both need access to the internet, and many services require a mobile phone to text a verification code. Not having a device or digital skills is a real barrier.
The products we distribute also act as a gateway to people accessing other services and support. We all know you can’t learn digital skills without a device. It’s a struggle to find a local support group, book a GP appointment, or compare the best utility rates if you’re not online. Digital poverty traps those that are already struggling. Research shows that the lower your income, the less likely you are to be online. The widening digital divide exacerbates existing inequalities.
What is brilliant, is the number of charities, companies, and public bodies that are stepping up to do something. The DPA’s UK National Delivery Plan sets out a clear roadmap to achieving lasting change. We all have a part to play.
In the last year, In Kind Direct has delivered two digital initiatives. Last autumn, we launched Tech4Schools with the Learning Foundation, Teach First and Amazon UK. We’ve provided over 600 students with devices, skills training and tech support. This helped them complete their coursework and prepare their next steps in education or into work.
In April, we kicked off our partnership with Global Resale, giving our network access to refurbished laptops. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many charitable and public services moved online. This often put those most in need even further from support. We know the rising price of raw materials can make new devices unaffordable for many. This initiative connects the dots, giving pre-loved tech a new lease of life.
“The laptop, with our digital access support and assistive technologies, will enable our beneficiary to overcome his dyslexia and become digitally active – helping him with shopping, engaging with family and friends, accessing benefits, training, and other opportunities.” Symbiont CIC, Liverpool
Devices don’t just get people online – they give people the freedom to live in a way that works for them. One of the students in the Tech4Schools programme told us how having their own laptop meant they didn’t have to use the library computers at lunchtime and could go outside to play football and make friends instead. Others spoke of being able to help their parents and play with younger siblings now they didn’t have to stay late at school.
If you’re a company with devices to donate, our Corporate Partnerships Team would love to hear from you. If you’re a charitable organisation, register with us for free today. Together we can end digital poverty.
Data from In Kind Direct is from our regular network surveys, or UK polling with YouGov Plc. Polling sample size was 2,068 adults, weighted to be representative of all UK adults (18+). Fieldwork was undertaken 28th February – 1st March 2023. Other statistics are provided by the Digital Poverty Alliance.
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