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Uni issues rallying call to businesses to tackle digital exclusion

A university has launched a campaign in Leicester, calling on local businesses and other organisations to support local people without adequate access to technology and the internet.

De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) wants businesses to donate their unused computers, laptops, phones and other items to tackle the digital divide exposed by the pandemic.

The campaign is part of a wider drive by the CBI and others to encourage more businesses to donate their old unused technology.

Campaigners say that cracks have been exposed during COVID-19, with more people relying on technology than ever before to stay connected with loved ones and continue their education and work.  They add that the issue was already bad before the pandemic, with certain groups of people vulnerable to being left out, including the elderly, homeless and refugees. According to Age UK, 51% of digitally excluded people are over the age of 65, while refugees and the homeless also face worrying levels of digital exclusion.

The University told The Rooftop that the digital divide is a key concern for them as Leicester begins to recover from the pandemic.

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, DMU say that 1 in 5 people (22%) lacked basic digital skills and access to equipment, disproportionately affecting those with low incomes, and even more since last year due to lack of access in public spaces. De Montfort University has teamed up with two social enterprises on the campaign – SocialBox.Biz and Reaching People – to help support those in need.

Mark Charlton, Associate Director of Public Engagement at DMU, said:

Finding ways to tackle the digital divide has been one of our key aims since starting the DMU Community Solutions Programme (Covid-19) during the first lockdown.

We believe, by working with our partners, we have found a practical way to start the long process of tackling the digital divide in our local communities.

Peter Paduh, Founder of SocialBox.Biz, said:

For too long we’ve ignored the damaging impact of digital exclusion on the vulnerable in society. Sadly, it has taken a global pandemic to show what can happen when we don’t address the digital gap.

Image by SocialBox.Biz

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