New scheme reveals first pledges to help breach digital divide

The Access Foundation has announced £269,000 of funding for three projects helping to overcome the digital divide

An initiative set up last year to help overcome the digital divide has given the green light to grants totalling an initial £269,000 of funding for projects across the UK.

The schemes backed by the Access Foundation comprise a pledge of £120,000 for 12 scholarship students to study computer science or IT management at Loughborough University, the same sum to back a similar programme at Aston University, and £28,985 to establish a digital suite within a community interest company offering training and education provision in Hartlepool.

Numerous studies have indicated just how deep the digital divide has become. The Social Mobility Commission’s state of the nation report 2021 found that, when the lockdown hit in March 2020, a large number of the poorest households were excluded from the digital world. Only 51% of UK households earning between £6000 to £10,000 had home internet access, compared with 99% of those with an income of more than £40,000.

And in December 2021, a poll from education charity Teach First revealed that only 2% of teachers working within disadvantaged communities said their pupils had adequate access to the technology they need to work from home.

“It is a worrying situation that, in an increasingly digital society, so many people are being left behind,” said Piers McLeish, trustee of the Access Foundation. “Digital access and skills are crucial to enable people to fully engage in today’s online world.

This grant means we can make a key and measurable difference in the digital poverty that is so prevalent in our town – Sam Hunter, The Big League CIC

“It’s a key objective of the Access Foundation to address digital inequalities and help ensure that people from all backgrounds have the same opportunities, regardless of their postcode and background,” he added.

“As such, we have prioritised our initial grant funding to support projects that are really making a difference and bridging the digital divide across the UK.”

His words were echoed by Sam Hunter at The Big League CIC, the Hartlepool organisation supported by the Access Foundation, and which aims to reduce poverty and improve health, wellbeing and social cohesion.

“This grant is so important to us, as it means we can make a key and measurable difference in the digital poverty that is so prevalent in our town,” said Hunter.

“Sometimes this poverty isn’t given as much recognition as, say, food or fuel poverty, but the effects can be really devastating on how people can access their digital needs.

“We believe everyone should have fair opportunities, and this will really bridge the gap of the digital divide improving poverty of opportunity and boost their aspirations and ability to engage.”

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