London’s Digital Inclusion Conference


On 23 June, LOTI and the GLA co-hosted our first ever Digital Inclusion Conference. Practitioners from the public, third and private sectors braved the rail strikes to celebrate all that’s been achieved in tackling digital exclusion in London. It was really inspiring to meet so many people clearly passionate about this issue and willing to work together to tackle the digital divide in our city.

Digital Access for All is a top priority for London

The pandemic shone a light on an existing issue – the large number of Londoners either partially or fully excluded from participating in digital society. LOTI’s own research into this brought to the surface the different needs and barriers to getting online including lacking access to a suitable device, digital connectivity, or need additional skills support to use the internet.

To support London’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis, the Mayor of London launched the ‘Digital Access for All’ mission to ensure that everyone Londoner has access to good connectivity, basic digital skills and the device or support they need to be online by 2025. Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, spoke more about the Mayor’s plans and thanked the attendees for helping London get closer to achieving this goal.

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, speaking at the conference.

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London

Advocating for digital inclusion is also a priority for Mayor Philip Glanville, who is London Councils Digital Champion, and he closed the event by reiterating the importance of supporting digital inclusion in London.

Mayor Philip Glanville speaking at the conference.

Mayor Philip Glanville

Collaboration is the only way to effectively tackle digital exclusion

Digital exclusion is a multifaceted issue that only the collaborative efforts of the public, third and private sectors can effectively tackle, once and for all. For this reason, collaboration was one of the key themes of the conference – aiming to bring together the bright minds across all sectors to think about how we can better work together to solve this.

Our panel of digital inclusion experts (Abi Wood, CEO of Age UK, Tim Stranack, Founder of Community Fibre, and Opama Khan, Croydon’s Head of Digital Services, Access & Reach and Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London) shared their thoughts on how different sectors can work together and that collaboration has the power to achieve better outcomes.

Abi Wood, CEO of Age UK, Tim Stranack, Founder of Community Fibre, and Opama Khan, Croydon’s Head of Digital Services, Access & Reach and Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London on the panel.

Abi Wood, Theo Blackwell, Opama Khan and Tim Stranack taking part in the panel discussion.

Shining a light on Digital Inclusion initiatives

There has been some amazing work across London helping residents to get online. We wanted to showcase some of these initiatives at the conference and invited digital inclusion project leads to present their work.

Anthony Hopkins, Head of Merton’s Library, Heritage & Adult Education Service, spoke about their Connecting Merton scheme, a device lending and digital skills support service delivered by the libraries in the borough.

Anthony Hopkins speaking at the conference.

Anthony Hopkins, Head of Merton’s Library, Heritage & Adult Education Service

Southwark have been working to provide better broadband for their borough and digital inclusion training for their staff and residents. Their Technology Project Manager, Shade Nathaniel-Ayodele, shared how Southwark utilised supplier social value contributions to make this happen.

Shade Nathaniel-Ayodele speaking at the conference.

Shade Nathaniel-Ayodele, Technology Project Manager for Southwark

LOTI have been collaborating with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and a number of London boroughs on digital inclusion initiatives. We were joined by Paul Hodgson (Senior Manager – City Data, GLA) and Raphaelle Lewis (Digital Inclusion Delivery Manager, RBKC) from two of the project teams who have mapped digital exclusion across London and are now testing methods of triaging digital exclusion during borough interactions with residents.

Paul Hodgson speaking at the conference

Paul Hodgson, Senior Manager – City Data, GLA

Raphaelle Lewis speaking at the conference

Raphaelle Lewis, Digital Inclusion Delivery Manager for RBKC

The Helix Centre has also been working with LOTI to test digital approaches to reducing the social isolation experienced by people living with dementia and boost their digital inclusion. Alice Gregory, a Designer from the Helix Centre, took us through the discovery, co-design and pilot stages of the project and their plans to take the project further.

Alice Gregory speaking at the conference

Alice Gregory, a Designer for the Helix Centre

Attendees were also encouraged to contribute to an exhibition of digital inclusion initiatives so that we could raise awareness of even more of the great work happening in London. The exhibition was divided into four themes: connectivity, devices, digital skills and digital support. At each station we posed a ‘How Might We’ question to gain attendee insights and suggestions on: increasing uptake of digital skills provision; encouraging organisations to donate their unused devices; using digital technologies to support vulnerable members of society to achieve what’s important to them; ensuring everyone has the connectivity their need. We’ll be considering their responses as part of our future planning.

A photo of a man scanning a QR code on one of the exhibition posters.

There was an exhibition of digital inclusion initiatives.

A photo of a conference attendee taking part in the 'How might we' activity.

A conference attendee completing a ‘How might we’ activity.

Learning from each other

There were other opportunities throughout the conference for attendees to tell us what they have learned from delivering digital inclusion initiatives to help others who may be planning their own. During group activities, attendees were asked ‘What factors make a digital inclusion initiative successful?’ and to share their own experiences of tackling digital exclusion and the challenges they have faced.

A photo of conference attendees taking part in an activity

Conference attendees taking part in one of the activities.

A Digital Inclusion service for London

We ended the day by announcing our plans for Get Online London, a new pilot in collaboration with Good Things Foundation and the GLA to reduce the number of Londoners who are digitally excluded.

Rob Shapiro from Good Things Foundation announcing our plans for a new digital inclusion service for London

Rob Shapiro, Partnerships and Fundraising Manager at Good Things Foundation, announcing our plans for a digital inclusion service for London.

A goal of the pilot is to complement the work already being done in London and we took the opportunity to ask practitioners what they would like to see from a digital inclusion service for London.

Boroughs, libraries and VCS organisations will be able to join the service’s London Online Centres Network to receive access to free mobile data, devices and digital skills support which they can distribute amongst their communities. Private and public sector organisations can donate their retired devices to be refurbished and distributed throughout the Network.

More information about the service will be published in the autumn, in the meantime, visit our blog about the service to find out how to get involved.

by Sophie Nelson
26 July 2022 ·