Andy Burnham launches Manchester digital inclusion initiative
Great Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham aims to tackle digital exclusion in the city after Ofcom figures suggest that up to 1.2 million residents could be digitally excluded.
The Mayor has launched a digital inclusion action network that focuses on ensuring that audiences such as those under 25, over 75 and disabled people have the skills, equipment and connectivity to go online.
Ofcom figures show that in the past three months, 176,000 Greater Manchester residents did not access the internet at all, while a total of 1.2 million people in the area could be digitally excluded, such as not being able to banking online or public Use online services.
Burnham said the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed “invisible inequalities and growing social divisions” in the region.
“We’ve all seen more of our lives move online, and that risks excluding those who don’t have digital connectivity,” he said. “Closing the digital divide must now be given a much higher priority. The time is coming when we need to understand digital connectivity as a fundamental human right. Without it, people are left out of the conversation, lose access to important services, and miss out on a whole host of opportunities.
“That’s why I’m setting myself a new ambition to help everyone under 25, over 75 and people with disabilities in Greater Manchester get online. We want to create a new initiative that involves partners from the public, private and municipal sectors to provide the equipment, connectivity and skills that people need. The new Digital Action Network and Digital Inclusion Task Force will be the driving force behind this new goal of bridging the digital divide in Greater Manchester. “
The network to combat digital exclusion is managed by people who have had “lived experiences” within these target groups.
In December 2020, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) launched a digital inclusion task force to address the region’s shortcomings.
With high-level representatives from industry, community groups and local governments, the group aims to address the barriers of digital exclusion and inequality in internet access through a shared approach based on local needs and shared learning, resources and expertise.
Digital inclusion plays a key role in the Greater Manchester area living on the Covid-19 resilience plan. The taskforce launch follows the announcement by the Greater Manchester Technology Fund at the start of the pandemic, which involves GMCA, Virgin Media and the ANS Group.
The initiative aims to fill the support gaps and provide more than 500 devices to “digitally marginalized” students who did not have the technology or connectivity to access school or support systems and continue to study from home .
Burnham added, “Greater Manchester is the fastest growing digital and technology hub in Europe and is increasingly recognized as the UK’s leading digital metropolitan area. The new ambition to help everyone under 25 online sends an important message to potential investors about our commitment to improving digital skills. “