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Manchester mayor launches new digital inclusion initiatives

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Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has launched a databank and called for businesses to support digital inclusion in the city.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) said the moves are aimed at helping disadvantaged residents get online and obtain easier access to public services.

The Greater Manchester Databank will operate as part of the National Databank run by the Good Things Foundation, with the aim of providing free mobile connectivity to people in need and to tackle digital poverty.

Burnham called on local community organisations to apply for access to the databank, which is supported by Virgin Media O2, Vodafone and Three and currently has enough data to help an estimated 500,000 people nationally. It can support local residents with offers such as 12 months free data and access to digital skills training.

Food bank for connectivity

Burnham said: “Building on the work of our Data Poverty Lab, we have, with Virgin Media O2, developed the pioneering National Databank, a world leading ‘national food bank for connectivity data’, to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in communities across the UK to get connected. Community organisations can apply for access to the databank.

“We’re delighted to launch the databank in Greater Manchester, an area that is doing so much work to tackle digital exclusion and support disadvantaged families. Together, we can fix the digital divide for good.”

The move is accompanied by a third phase of the Greater Manchester Technology Fund programme, with a call to businesses to donate technology and connectivity to support disadvantaged families. They can also provide skills and career support.

Donations will be used to support students receiving alternative education from pupil referral units and in special educational need and disabilities schools. They will receive support tailored to their needs including in skills development.

Ambition and action

In May 2021, Burnham announced ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the skills, connectivity, and technology to get online. 

As part of that he established a Digital Inclusion Action Network that brings together a cross-sector of organisations to combat digital exclusion in Greater Manchester.

Both the Greater Manchester Databank and the GM Tech Fund initiatives are outcomes of this network.

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