The digital divide – it’s time we closed the gap

October 8, 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic having brought the use of technology into much sharper focus, national digital infrastructure platform CityFibre is calling on society to help everyone prosper in the digital world.

The last 18 months have delivered a seismic change in the way we have lived our lives.
Technology allowed us to stay connected – however, it was not a straightforward shift for all.

The issue of digital inclusion is not a new phenomenon, but the COVID-19 pandemic has pulled it into sharper focus.

Society is reaching a point where most everyday tasks require a certain level of access to, and knowledge of, technology, many vital services – including healthcare, banking, utility bills and council services – are rapidly moving online.

In the UK, it’s estimated 16.3 million adults lack core digital skills, nine million are unable to use the internet independently, and 1.9 million homes have no internet access.

We therefore need to work together to ensure everyone can embrace the digital world.

RELIABLE EQUIPMENT

For many people, libraries provided a place to complete forms, pay bills and keep in touch with others – when they were forced to close, many were left without access to computers. Fortunately, there is great work being done to combat this.

We are working with the Hive, in Portsmouth, providing financial support to allow the charity to provide prepaid data sims that can be distributed with laptops and tablets.

CityFibre has also partnered with Donate Digital to support its work in upgrading and distributing donated IT equipment.

CONNECTIVITY FOR ALL

A device is just the beginning. Without an internet connection, people cannot access online services.

In 2021, Ofcom estimated that around 24 per cent of UK homes had access to full fibre coverage. The Government has set a target of ensuring at least 85 per cent of UK premises have access to gigabit broadband by 2025.

Our investment of up to £4 billion will support this, bringing full fibre networks within reach of at least eight million homes, 800,000 businesses and 400,000 public sector sites. We work with councils and housing associations in Sunderland and across the UK to ensure full fibre reaches whole communities.

SUPPORTING A DIGITALLY INCLUSIVE FUTURE

While the last year has brought the issue of digital inclusion to the fore, it has also resulted in more people working to tackle the problem.

There is still a way to go, and it will take collaboration from both private and public sectors to level the playing field.

As individuals, we can play our part by not throwing away old technology – there are many charities that will pass it on. And as life gets a bit busier, let’s continue to look out for each other, ensuring nobody is left behind.

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