Sunderland City Council is setting up a network of community digital health hubs to support digital inclusion in the city.
It collaborating on the project with Boldyn Networks – the lead partner in its Smart City of Sunderland programme – the British Esports Federation and 22 trusted community partners, each of which will host one of the hubs.
The initiative forms part of a wider scheme, Links for Life, which was recently launched across Sunderland to empower communities to improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Each hub will deliver ‘doorstep’ digital services directly to communities, focusing on those with the least connectivity and those that are most susceptible to digital exclusion.
They will be powered by Sunderland’s extensive public Wi-Fi network and have access to multiple tools that can be used to tailor a digital support package to fit the individual’s needs.
The hubs will also offer residents free access to devices and Wi-Fi, and help them get online safely.
First for Esports
Some will act as databanks, providing free SIM cards and data to eligible people, and five will have gaming kits for Esports.
The latter initiative, which involves working with the Esports Federation is believed to be the first of its kind, is aimed at raising awareness about the gaming industry and encouraging people of all ages into educational and employment pathways.
The council said that one in three people in Sunderland have never been online or lack basic digital literacy skills.
Its director of smart cities, Liz St Louis, said: “From the very start of our smart city journey, we envisioned a future where the digital divide is addressed collaboratively, ensuring that no one and nowhere is left behind. Our Digital Inclusion Plan is ensuring that everyone in Sunderland, regardless of their age or situation can reap the opportunities afforded by digital.
“The UKSPF investment and our partnership with Boldyn Networks has played a crucial role in providing the necessary infrastructure and digital inclusion services in the heart of Sunderland communities.”