Digital exclusion: The importance of connection
Digital exclusion – why does it matter?
Being able to access and use the internet is widely acknowledged to be crucial to health, employment, and life-chances in general because of the multitude of essential services such as education, welfare, health and work that are now offered online, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Furthermore, the importance of access and internet use is identified in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – a global set of goals established in 2015 that so pre-date the pandemic, lockdowns and Zoom meetings – which include an indicator the proportion of people who use the internet by 2030. Despite the seemingly universal acknowledgement of the value of digital literacy, a significant proportion of the population is ‘digitally excluded’ – not only do they lack access but the knowledge and skills to be ‘digitally literate’. In fact, according to Lloyds Bank, in 2021 10 million people in the UK lacked the very basic foundation skills needed for our digital world.
Low-income is a key factor for digital exclusion across all age groups. People in the poorest households are at least four times more likely to be digitally excluded. Unsurprisingly the likelihood of having internet access increases with income. Just 51% of households earning between £6,000 – £10,000 have home internet access compared with 99% of households with an income of over £40,001. Therefore the link between deprivation and digital exclusion is clear: if you are poor, you are less likely to be online. So, why does this matter? Research suggests that digital exclusion results in lower earnings, lower employability, more expensive shopping bills, decreased communication and additional time costs associated with not using online services  e.g., paying bills.
Connecting the Churchill Gardens community
C3’s CHESS action plan co-ordinator Zoe Keeping has recently addressed the issue of digital exclusion within the local community of Churchill Gardens in Boscombe, Bournemouth, one of seven communities in England and France in which C3 has performed community engagement as part ASPIRE – a €10 million Interreg VA Channel project that aims to address the issues of obesity and unemployment. Visit our community engagement projects page to learn more about C3’s work in ASPIRE.
A key priority identified by community members in the Boscombe community action plan is to improve communication about what is happening in and around Churchill Gardens, it was felt strongly that with so much information only available online, it’s essential that everyone in the local community has access to the internet.
It’s good to talk
As part of BCP Council’s Smart Place programme, free public access to Wi-Fi is being provided to visitors and tourists in the Boscombe and Lansdowne area, which is part of the wider Bournemouth Towns Fund digital connectivity initiative. In November 2021, Zoe reached out to the Smart Place programme at BCP Council to discuss connectivity and coverage in and around Churchill Gardens to help support the local community and it was subsequently agreed that existing plans could be amended, and fibre cable could be laid down so that free Wi-Fi will be available within Churchill Gardens. The timescale for implementation is six-nine months. Another positive output of talking is that Zoe has been invited to sit on the Smart Place App development panel. This new community app will provide a central point for residents to find out about events, volunteering and work opportunities, and health and wellbeing activities.
Read more about our community engagement projects.