These are difficult times for all of us, but imagine how much harder coping with the pandemic would be if you didn’t have access to the internet. No news, no advice, no services and no communication with the outside world. That’s the reality facing 1.9 million households across the UK today and it’s not acceptable. How can we leave the digitally excluded without access to the resources and comfort they need during these worrying times?
We can’t and we won’t. With support from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the FutureDotNow initiative is coordinating action via DevicesDotNow to ensure we get devices and connectivity to the digitally excluded during this time. At Nominet, we currently fund FutureDotNow and have jumped on board to support this work, underwriting the new site and helping to lead DevicesDotNow to try to drive this initiative forwards and help as many people as we can.
It mustn’t be forgotten that some of those without access to the internet will be elderly and/or vulnerable, the very demographic who need extra care during this time and protection from the virus. They may also be in need of other services such as medication, food deliveries, medical advice or even GP appointments. We can’t let them choose between going without or risking their health by stepping outside the front door. Ensuring they can access support online will not only ease the worry for the individual, it could also save more lives and keep unnecessary pressure off our stretched NHS services and staff.
This is only going to happen with your help. We are calling on businesses to donate devices – whether laptops, tablets or smartphones – as well as connectivity solutions – such as SIM cards or dongles – to help mobilise this action. Companies can also donate funds that can be used to purchase the necessary equipment and facilitate the set up and delivery to the households in need: £10,000 would allow us to buy tablets and devices for around 100 vulnerable households.
We recognise that some of the digitally excluded lack the familiarity with devices and the digital skills required to use the internet to their benefit, so simply giving them a tablet is not going to solve the problem. We will be making sure these devices are set up to be as easy as possible to use, pre-loaded with relevant apps as well as digital training from Learn My Way, covering essential skills. This will allow everyone to easily and swiftly unlock the services they need most at this time. Working through expert Online Centre champions across the UK we know the support structure is in place to support vulnerable people.
These are unprecedented times that are challenging our society in ways we could never have envisaged. Our strength is our adaptability, civic mindedness and generosity, sharing what we have with those who have less, ensuring no one is left behind as we struggle, as a nation, to beat this virus. Internet connectivity might seem like a small thing to those who have it, but to those without it’s a gamechanger, the key to their wellbeing and safety.
If you can’t financially support this initiative yourself then please help us to spread the word. The more awareness we can raise and the more support we can attract, the more vulnerable people we will be able to help through DevicesDotNow.
by Chris Ashworth, Head of Public Benefit, Nominet