How Digital Exclusion stole Christmas
The season of goodwill, togetherness, and community is upon us. Turn on any channel, walk into any shop, speak to most people and you will hear the annual call to action, ‘Have a Merry Christmas’.
Though we all may hear the words, it is important to remember that only some of us have access to the tools we need to make this sentiment anything more than a catchphrase.
The ramifications of digital exclusion don’t stop as offices close; they intensify. 1 in 10 households across the UK will remain without access to the internet; 10 million people across the country will be denied access due to a lack of basic digital skills(1). As the cost of living crisis worsens, these numbers are sure to change as a result of the financially forced digital exclusion that is taking place across London and the UK as we speak.
Over the next few weeks, there will be many people without a home, who can’t access a bed for the night because the information they need to do so is online.
There will be low-income families who want to provide a taste of Christmas for their children, who are unable to access promotional offers that they can afford because such offers only exist online. A ‘hallmark Christmas’ is denied to them because they can’t access the digital world.
With snow and ice on the horizon, many of London’s residents – especially people who are elderly and/or disabled – will no longer be able to attend their GP to make an appointment, but cannot access the online booking services that would benefit them so much. In place of care, they have stress; a time of year meant for joy, delivering despair in its place.
Our community of London is beautifully diverse and many people across our city, whose families don’t live close by, will be unable to book the tickets they need to be with loved ones because access to websites of cheap flights that many of us take for granted are beyond their reach.
We think of Christmas; we think of children and the magic they feel. For children who are digitally excluded, this time of year holds untold stress. In January they have exams, but many of London’s children do not have access to the online learning they need for success. Here we see the multitude of intersections that digital inclusion has with social justice; every second digital exclusion exists in our city, the wider the socio-economic gap becomes.
You may see this as pointing out the obvious, but I hope you instead see that as we come to the end of the year, digital exclusion still exists all around us and as we slow down, it keeps its pace.
As those affected can’t be here with us on this website, I thought I would be a voice for them in their stead, reminding us all that the work we all do on digital inclusion is desperate, it is urgent and it can change people’s lives.