It is more important than ever to tackle the issue of digital exclusion. Around 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 sourcing 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.
In this guide, LOTI takes key learnings from the way several organisations have recently sourced digital devices for local residents and provides advice if you wish to set up a similar scheme. It covers the external methods of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing but does not cover internal sourcing methods, such as staff amnesty (crowdsourcing digital devices from staff) or upcycling retired devices – the latter is covered in LOTI’s separate guide to upcycling devices. Please note, the recommendations in this guide are not exhaustive.
LOTI is very grateful for the input in this guide from council representatives in the following areas – Birmingham, Brent, Camden, Essex County Council, Lambeth, Southwark, Sunderland and Westminster – and for the insights provided by Community Barnet, Power to Connect and ReadyTechGo.
As one council officer told LOTI, “We know there’s people who need support but it’s about how to reach them and raise awareness that digital inclusion support is available”. If your organisation is looking for ways to help local residents get online, we hope you find this guide and our other LOTI guides about lending and gifting devices and upcycling devices useful.