With the coronavirus pandemic increasing the level of digital inequality across Bristol and beyond, Voscur recently organised and ran a series of digital inclusion meetings for community organisations, city partners and stakeholders working to address the key issue of people being excluded from digital technology.
Exclusion happens when people do not have access to equipment (such as laptops, smartphones or tablets), connectivity (such as affordable broadband or phone data allowances) or digital skills (such as using the internet safely and confidently to connect to services and other people).
Staff from more than 30 organisations attended the February meeting, where they learned about the Digital Technologies and the Coronavirus Crisis survey carried out by Knowle West Media Centre, working in partnership with the University of Bristol. The meeting also shared how DigiLocal has received, cleansed and distributed over 500 laptops to Bristolians who didn't have access to online learning and essential online services. Everyone who attended the meetings agreed that the level of digital exclusion locally (and nationally) means that action is needed now, across all sectors and communities in Bristol.
The meeting in February was also an opportunity for community organisations to share the actions they have taken so far, and to look at how we can work together to address the impacts of digital exclusion. Discussions highlighted the challenges faced by children and young people, adults, families and community organisations in the city. It was also clear that, whilst there are a number of initiatives making progress on addressing the gaps, there is an urgent need for coordination and mapping which will lead to both a targeted and citywide response.
Looking ahead, by bringing together community initiatives and the efforts of individual organisations around a new One City Digital Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan, we can join up and coordinate activities to help people in a meaningful and sustainable way. A newly-formed Digital Inclusion Task Group (under the One City Office), including Voscur, will take this work forward, covering all areas of digital inclusion, from hardware (equipment) to software, safeguarding and connectivity.
We will keep you updated on progress but, in the meantime, we are keen to hear from you and your community on this issue. Are there any local initiatives we need to support and highlight? Do you need help to develop an idea or to work in partnership with others? Would you like to join future Digital Inclusion meetings or receive regular updates on progress? If so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.