Lambeth Council writes:
"The COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight both how central technology has become to how public services are delivered, and how necessary digital access is for Lambeth’s residents and businesses to stay connected, learn, keep well, access help and advice, and be engaged in society. We know that thousands of Lambeth residents are digitally excluded to some degree. Digital exclusion can refer to:
- being unable to access equipment to get online, such as a computer, tablet or smartphone – this can also include only having access to an inadequate or shared device
- being unable to connect to the internet reliably or at all, either through lack of an internet connection in the household, lack of data allowance, or poor Wi-Fi availability in the area
- being unable to use technology due to a lack of skills, confidence, motivation, or accessibility issues
Digital exclusion is an issue across resident groups including children and young people, older people, disabled people and vulnerable adults. As a local authority, Lambeth has a duty to ensure that residents who are digitally excluded have fair access to public services and can participate equally in society. Working to improve digital inclusion will improve opportunities for residents and prevent longer term challenges and service needs arising.
During the initial COVID-19 response, the council worked with schools, voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) groups, and private sector partners to identify need, acquire equipment, and distribute it to those who needed it. However, demand exceeds the level of support that is currently available to address the issue. To meet the longer-term challenges, Lambeth is finalising a new Digital Strategy and launching a new strategic programme, Digital Lambeth, to deliver the goals set out in the strategy. These go beyond issues of access and also aim to improve the infrastructure that underpins it, as well as how the council works to deliver services and support digital business growth in the borough.
Digital Inclusion Fund
There is still a short term need for equipment and connectivity support, which is being addressed by the launch of a £200,000 Digital Inclusion Fund.
The Digital Inclusion Fund will be delivered in phases:
- Now live: £75,000 in small grants (around £5,000 each) to VCS organisations, focusing on projects that can deliver devices (eg. laptops, tablets) and connectivity (eg. with dongles and mi-Fi) directly to adults who need it
- Schools will be able to apply for small grants to support children and young people with digital equipment through a separate application process in the new year
- Research and insights from this funding will help to direct the focus of future funding
Charities, not for profits, social enterprises and unincorporated community groups can apply for a grant. Applications will be open until Monday 14 December and recipients will be notified before Christmas.
Lambeth residents can also help by donating their own unused laptops, tablets, and mobile phones to be securely erased and redistributed to those who need them. If you have any personal devices to donate, the council is supporting two schemes: