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LGA funds digital inclusion projects


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Local Government Association (LGA) has shared close to £200,000 between 10 councils for projects to promote digital inclusion in their local communities.

The money has been made available through the organisation’s Digital Inclusion Programme, aimed at helping people who lack the skills, infrastructure and confidence to go online.

The size of the awards varies between £15,000 and £20,000, with five of the 10 projects receiving the maximum amount.

Among these is Colchester Council’s effort to install fixed access iPads in sheltered housing, Greenwich’s procurement of 20 licences for the Brain in Hand smartphone app to support young people with special educational needs, and Croydon’s digital inclusion outreach programme for elderly residents.

Similarly, Kent County Council receives the full amount for a scheme to enable homebound residents to borrow tablet devices, and Tower Hamlets’ use of the Digital Logbook to support and encourage a target group receiving support through WorkPath and Benefits Outreach.

Huntingdonshire Council gets £19,500 in harnessing simple voice bots and natural language processing, North Yorkshire is receiving £19,400 to give people in selected areas access to voice activated personal virtual assistants, while £18,000 goes to Middlesbrough to help elderly and disabled people to access the internet.

The other two, receiving £15,000 each, are Shropshire Council for its project to support over 65s get online, and a project involving Richmond upon Thames and Kingston upon Thames to implement a chatbot to support families of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Improving lives

Councillor Peter Fleming, chair of the LGA’s improvement and innovation board, said: “Councils are improving the lives and employment prospects of their residents through digital inclusion programmes. The latest cohort of councils included in the programme will give residents 24/7 online access.

“As part of the LGA’s wider sector-led improvement offer, the Digital Inclusion programme is helping councils to reach out and provide a vital service for residents who don’t have access or confidence to use digital platforms.

“Despite facing significant funding pressures over the past decade, councils have shown willingness to innovate to improve the lives of their residents.”

The LGA said that independent analysis has estimated that full digital uptake could add £63 billion to the UK economy – as well as improving people’s wellbeing through reducing problems such as loneliness and the risk of falls.

Image from LGA

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