A pilot has been launched for a new Digital Inclusion Service for London.
It has been put together by the mayor’s office with the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) and digital inclusion charity the Good Things Foundation, and will run for one year with the aim of creating a sustainable service for the long term.
The organisations said the design process is just beginning and the service is initially aimed at getting 75,000 people online from the estimated 270,000 who are completely offline, and two million who have very low engagement.
The service, funded with £545,000 from the London Recovery Programme, will include the upcycling of old devices from public bodies and businesses for distribution to digitally excluded Londoners through a new device bank run by the Good Things Foundation, and the creation of a data bank to provide free or low cost mobile connectivity and promote social tariffs – cheap internet connections offered by telecommunications firms.
It will also link to existing Good Things Foundations skills offers, hundreds of free adult education courses funded by the Greater London Authority, and relevant services provided by the voluntary and community sector.
These will be accompanied by the creation of a cross-London digital inclusion network of organisations.
The scheme will be aimed at families still lacking a device, people in temporary accommodation, older or vulnerable people identified by social services or GPs, and local community organisation staff and volunteers.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Every Londoner should have digital access, but the sad reality is that too many Londoners lack the skills, technology and infrastructure to get online easily, preventing them from accessing the tools they need to thrive.
“The new Digital Inclusion Service will build on the amazing work already underway to tackle digital exclusion, and bring vital resources such as devices, connectivity, and learning opportunities to the fingertips of those who need them. I'm calling on large businesses and public bodies to join us in upcycling their old laptops and other tech to the new Device Bank to be reconditioned, to help bridge the digital divide, aid London’s recovery and build a better London for everyone.”
Research by LOTI has found there are more than 100 initiatives across the city focused to address digital inclusion, but they often offer only part of the support people need.
The scheme is also aimed at supporting sustainability efforts by reducing the number of devices going to landfill.