It is more important than ever to tackle the issue of digital exclusion. 10 million people in the UK lack the most basic digital skills and, as the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, this can impact their physical health, education, work, mental wellbeing and life chances in general.
Here at the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI), we specialise in helping London boroughs work together to bring the best of digital and data innovation to improve public services and outcomes for Londoners. Device lending and gifting is one of several areas that LOTI is exploring as part of the Digital Inclusion Innovation Programme (DIIP). The DIIP supports the delivery of the London Recovery Board’s Digital Access for All Mission whose goal is for “Every Londoner to have access to good connectivity, basic digital skills and the device or support they need to be online by 2025”.
As LOTI’s review of Digital Inclusion in London reveals, one of the six key challenges is meeting the scale of need for devices (sometimes referred to as ‘device poverty’). Hundreds of organisations across London, including councils and voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations, are already working to tackle digital exclusion, including lack of access to devices, but it is an enormous task. In Tower Hamlets alone, for example, 10,000 children are in need of a device to support them with their school work.
One way that London councils can help is by lending or gifting digital devices, such as tablets and laptops, to local residents who do not have their own. According to LOTI’s research, device lending and gifting initiatives range from small-scale, hyperlocal schemes (gifting or lending 10-20 devices) to larger, borough-wide schemes (gifting or lending 100-1000 devices).
In this guide, LOTI takes key learnings from current device lending and gifting schemes and provides advice for London councils and other organisations that wish to set up similar schemes. Council representatives from Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton and Stockport have shared their experiences from their own digital inclusion initiatives and LOTI would like to thank them for their vital input in this guide. Please note, the recommendations in this guide are not exhaustive and it does not cover how to source digital devices.
One council officer told LOTI how the COVID-19 pandemic has put digital inclusion “front and centre” in their organisation. If the same has happened where you work and you are considering setting up a device lending or gifting scheme for local residents, we hope you find this guide and our other LOTI guides about upcycling old devices and sourcing digital devices useful.