Bristol City Council tackles digital poverty with new scheme to provide laptops to those most in need.: bristolcc-placeholder

09 Feb 2021

Education, Learning and Skills

Bristol City Council tackles digital poverty with new scheme to provide laptops to those most in need.

New scheme to reduce digital poverty in the city.

Bristol City Council will be providing recycled laptops to those most in need, to help tackle the digital divide made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with Bristol Waste and partners across the city, the new scheme is aiming to recycle and re-distribute 3,600 council laptops, in an effort to reduce digital poverty in the city.

Launching this week in south Bristol, the Digital Inclusion pilot scheme will see the first 50 refurbished laptops going to parents of two-year-olds without digital access who would like to return to further education and to develop their skills and apply for work.

The new scheme will see partners and organisations taking a One City approach, working together across the city to help promote digital inclusion.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said: “COVID-19 has brought us huge challenges. Our hope is that by making it easier for people to have access to digital technology we can help people stay connected and find new opportunities.

“Many people are working hard to bring people together to look out for one another, and we want to work with organisations and individuals in our communities to make sure people are not left behind.”

People without digital devices, data (internet access) and basic IT skills, face significant barriers to education, training and employment, as well as in accessing services and maintaining social connections.

Councillor Anna Keen, cabinet lead for education and skills said: “We know that the ability to access digital devices is incredibly important - now more than ever. This scheme is designed to reach people in our communities whose financial and personal lives have been hit hard by the pandemic, and help them bridge the digital divide.”

Other identified priority groups include unemployed people aged 19 plus with few or no qualifications, vulnerable older people at risk of social isolation and young people aged 16-19 (up to 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan) not in education, training or employment.

The council will use £250k of COVID-19 funding to roll out the Digital Inclusion scheme, which will not include schools. Laptops for schools are being funded by the Department for Education, of which the council used to provide 1,300 laptops to vulnerable children in Bristol last year. There are also other schemes operating in the city that the council is working with to help support and further the work of the Department of Education.

Cheryl Lee, Bristol Waste IT Reuse Scheme Project Lead, said: “We know it has been such a hard time for everyone recently and we are over the moon to be part of this initiative. Bringing vital IT equipment to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get online is a big step forward. As well as refurbishing laptops and computers for those most in need in our communities, we also have a team providing IT support to help people make the most of their devices.

“Not only does this scheme give people the chance to get online and access vital resources, it also helps ensure Bristol wastes nothing. Saving items from the waste stream and finding new homes for pre-loved items is at the heart of what we do.”

All laptop recipients will also receive a starter data package, as well as a free, introductory digital skills course, with tutor support provided by the council’s Community Learning Team.

If successful, the scheme may be expanded across the city, with some laptop recipients being trained as Digital Champions to help support others in their community.

Digital exclusion affects all parts of society in different ways. This scheme is just one of many happening in the city who are providing different provisions to different communities and neighbourhoods. Some of these are set out below.

A council webpage will be available shortly to provide details of all the different schemes that residents and organisations can donate to.

 For more information on the council Digital Inclusion scheme email: digital.inclusion@bristol.gov.uk