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Funding agreed to tackle digital exclusion

Mulberry place town hall

Tower Hamlets Town Hall

The Council has set itself an ambitious target to get all residents online by 2024, ensuring they have the tools and skills they need to participate in and benefit from a digital world.

The focus is to ensure that residents have access to a device and affordable broadband at home, and that they have the skills or access to training to get online and have access to support if needed.

The plans, alongside the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Inequality Commission, and the Poverty Review, will contribute to the council’s ambition to tackle inequality and to build a strong, inclusive and fair borough.

Even if residents do not have wi-fi at home or a connected device, they will be able to use tablets and free wi-fi at any Idea Store and many free hotspots throughout the borough. A map will be created promoting free wi-fi and where to access free equipment.    

At a cabinet meeting on 24 November members agreed a digital strategy and action plan, which includes creating a digital inclusion ambassador, to be funded jointly by the council and partners.  

Mayor John Biggs said:  

“The link between digital exclusion and social disadvantage is clear. Many people still face significant barriers to digital access and we need to help take down these barriers. 

“Alongside improving life prospects, digital inclusion benefits society as a whole. Increased employability, higher earnings and more productive businesses and public services benefit us all.”  

The council’s Annual Residents Survey in 2019 found only 57% of people aged 60 plus had access to the internet compared to 99% of residents aged 18-34.  

The same survey found only 69% of disabled residents had access to the internet compared to 95% of non-disabled residents. 

A steering group chaired by Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, made of partners and council officers found there were four main barriers to digital inclusion:

  • Access – the ability to go online and connect to the internet, including having the right equipment and internet connectivity 
  • Skills – to use the internet  
  • Motivation - knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing  
  • Trust – the risk of crime or not knowing where to go online 

Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, said:  

“The council has already done a lot of work with partners over previous years to try to increase digital inclusion, however the rapid transition to digital services during the first lockdown has meant more action needs to be taken to support residents to have the digital access they need.

“The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in many ways, including impacting those already digitally excluded. The Digital Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan identifies key actions that should be undertaken in Tower Hamlets to improve overall digital inclusion and enable all our residents to access the benefits of digital technology and the internet.” 

You can view the action plan and report here.  

Posted on Friday 26th November 2021