Exactly two years ago today, I landed back in the UK from working in Australia and straight into self-enforced quarantine. The UK wasn’t officially in lockdown but we were closing our offices in Sheffield and Sydney, and many of our local community partners were closing their doors too. The pandemic was about to happen, we had no idea what was about to follow.
I’ve heard people say that the pandemic drove innovation at pace, and their business or public service delivered five years worth of digital transformation in five weeks. As a leading digital inclusion charity our priority was deciding how we needed to pivot to help people who were cut off as face to face services closed their doors and essential support went online.
With Covid-19 wreaking havoc worldwide, the past two years have brought momentous change.
Fast forward and what have we learned and what are we doing differently? As an organisation, we have settled into 2022 with renewed focus. As we learn to live with Covid-19 and work out what the changes we’ve experienced mean, we’ve adapted to a simpler model to #FixTheDigitalDivide.
Digital skills and confidence are one of three key areas we now tackle.
We’re continuing our trailblazing work on data poverty and finding solutions for free or affordable internet. Based on findings from our Data Poverty Lab with Nominet, we are scaling the UK National Databank – like a foodbank, but with data. With Virgin Media O2 already on board, the beginning of 2022 saw Vodafone and Three join the contributors and provide data for the vulnerable adults we support. We have enough internet data to support 500,000 people!
Secondly, what began as an emergency response to the pandemic (as Devices Dot Now), is a fundamental part of our strategy. Since March 2020 we have distributed over 22,000 free devices, alongside data and skills support, and hearing the impact on people’s lives, we’re now developing a National Device Bank to bring to scale putting refurbished devices into the hands of the people who need it.
And of course, the third key area is bringing this together with the amazing national digital inclusion network – the Online Centres – who can reach, motivate and support people who are digitally excluded in local communities. Digital inclusion is about people after all and what they can do with technology – it’s not about the technology itself.
But in order to continue with our vision, we need your help.
The National Device Bank will allow us to provide a holistic offer of a refurbished device alongside mobile internet access to break down the barrier of lack of affordable access. Reconome is our national partner, expert in handling, security wiping, and repairing previously used technology. Together, we are creating a scaled solution that will fuel digital inclusion and benefit our planet.
But, without companies’ used technology the Device Bank will not exist. Already we have two global companies on track to help. But to reach the 2 million households who struggle to afford the internet we need many more employers to partner with us.
- If you’re a company who wants to donate devices, please fill out this form.
- If you’re a company who wants to support, we can chat about how you can help. Get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you’re a telco and you’d like to know more about how you can support the National Databank, get in touch with us: email@example.com
- If you’re a community organisation, or a national charity with local branches, and want to be part of this movement for digital inclusion we’d love to hear from you. Find out more about joining the network here.
By working together, we can fix the digital divide.