Did you know that 9 million people in the UK still struggle to use the internet independently? It’s not surprising that Covid-19 has exacerbated the digital divide. Latest recorded figures show recent internet usage (within 3 months) stands at 79.5% in Sunderland compared with 90.8% across the UK which demonstrates the need for continued focus and effort locally.
What we found out
Cambridge University reported in 2020 that lockdown has served to highlight our reliance on virtual means of staying in touch. Critically, it has also thrown into sharp definition the issue of digital exclusion, which has been a reality for the 22% of the UK’s population who lack basic digital skills since long before the Covid-19 outbreak.
As an aspect of deprivation in the UK, digital exclusion cannot be overlooked. The likelihood of having access to the internet from home increases along with income, such that only 51% of households earning between £6,000-10,000 had home internet access compared with 99% of households with an income of over £40,001. The link between poverty and digital exclusion is clear: if you are poor, you have less chance of being online. Children living in poverty are already significantly disadvantaged compared to their wealthier peers and lack of access to suitable devices has also caused problems for some children. Digital exclusion also contributes to fuel poverty as online energy plans are some of the cheapest gas and electricity deals available on the gas and electricity market today, so customers who cannot access these on line can pay more for services and they may miss out on cheaper energy and broadband tariffs as they do not have the ability to switch. The largest switching company Uswitch only operates online or over the phone, creating an instant barrier to those who are digitally excluded or cannot afford to pay for lengthy telephone calls.
In addition Age UK state that 4.2 million elderly people are being discriminated against, as they do not use a computer and miss out on the energy industry's cheapest deals.
Poverty is also a barrier to internet connectivity, and it is very concerning how many residents are unable to fund broadband / data, as well as the lack of access to digital devices / digital skills. Many residents and families across the city must make the decision to buy food, fuel and then data. This has become clear during the pandemic and the issue is particularly affecting younger people who have the skills and technology but who are unable to connect at home due, to lack of broadband / data in the home.
How we are going to help in this project
Town and Community is leading a digital poverty programme in the North East of England. We are engaging, educating, and training school children and local residents for the everchanging digital world.
We are working with UK IT Leaders in the North East with support from the Digital Poverty Alliance and Princess Trust to develop sustainable digital communities in each town and city in the North East.
Our pilot projects focus on primary school children in the Borough of Sunderland. Watch this space for updates.
To learn more about our digital projects and what we are doing to alleviate digital poverty in the Borough of Sunderland please contact us by emailing email@example.com using Digital Poverty Sunderland in the subject line.