With lots of everyday services moving online, from healthcare to shopping, access to technology is becoming vital to our day to day lives. But some in society face major challenges when trying to access the world online.
In the UK it’s estimated that 16.3 million adults lack core digital skills, and 1.9 million homes have no access to the internet – meaning there is a whole section of society which needs support to ensure they can access the opportunities presented by the digital world.
The digital divide has always existed but has become more evident in the last year as the Covid-19 pandemic forced big parts of our lives - including work, school, and socialising - to move online. As a result of this, now, more than ever, work is being done to tackle the issue. In order to bridge the divide, people need access to three key things: equipment, connectivity and skills.
Currently, charities up and down the country are working to ensure everyone has access to technology. CityFibre has worked to support this, partnering with charities including The Hive, a digital library which loans equipment to those that need it, and Donate Digital, which upgrades and redistributes donated equipment.
A device is just the beginning – a reliable internet connection is vital to accessing online services. CityFibre is investing up to £4 billion to bring the best connectivity - Full Fibre - within reach of up to eight million homes, 800,000 businesses and 400,000 public sector sites.
Working with councils and housing associations across the UK, including here in Southend our whole town approach ensures that everyone has the same opportunity to access the network.
We are also working to ensure that people have the skills and confidence to use technology. CityFibre has supported various charities across the UK who work with the over 55s to help them develop the skills they need to get online. We are also supporting the next generation, working with coding workshops to help young people and their families develop technology skills.
Our Full Fibre networks also support the development of skills, as a reliable and fast connection ensures that people have a good experience online, encouraging them to explore technology and make full use of the opportunities it brings.
While the last year has made the digital divide more obvious than ever, it has also acted as a catalyst with more people working to tackle the problem both locally and nationally. There is still a lot to be done but working together we can all make a difference.
Our investment into community-wide Full Fibre networks is an important step in getting more people online, but there is lots we can do as individuals too. Don’t throw out your old technology - donate it to charity; and if you see someone struggling, support them to get online. This will make sure that as we move into a new, more digital world, no-one gets left behind.
To find out more or register an interest in the service go to cityfibre.com