Launching the Digital Exclusion Task and Finish Group
This blog is a contribution by Andy Rose, Chief System Architect at Arm, and Chair of Cambridge Ahead’s Digital Exclusion Task and Finish Group.
This January, Cambridge Ahead launched its Digital Exclusion Task and Finish group. This group brings together Cambridge Ahead Members and local stakeholders to understand patterns of digital exclusion in our city region and identify pathways for working with local partners to address the issue in our communities.
Digital exclusion (also referred to as digital poverty) refers to the lack of access to digital devices, internet connectivity, and possessing the necessary digital skills and motivation to get online.
Why should we care about digital exclusion in the Cambridge city region? The consequences of digital poverty can be significant – both for individuals and for society more widely. Without access to digital technology and the internet, people can be excluded from participating in large swathes of the economy, from having full social lives, to accessing essential services and information which increasingly exist wholly or partly online. As a result, digital exclusion deepens patterns of social exclusion, isolation, and poverty.
"Promoting digital inclusion can be a route to a more inclusive economy"
Conversely, promoting digital inclusion can be a route to a more inclusive economy - access to digital devices and the internet is associated with positive benefits to earnings and job opportunities, as well as the potential benefits to wellbeing. Therefore, digital inclusion should be seen as a means to an end for empowering individuals to achieve what they want to in our society.
Who does digital exclusion affect? We know digital exclusion is also something that is felt differently by different people. In particular, over-70s, those living with a disability, individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds, and people living in social housing are most at risk of experiencing digital exclusion. Patterns of digital exclusion mirror patterns of other forms of poverty, which both helps us understand which demographics are most at risk of experiencing digital exclusion, but also how one can integrate digital inclusion in reducing peoples’ vulnerability to other challenges.
"The group’s intention is to work alongside local partners to effectively channel support – whether in terms of providing digital technology or supporting skills development – in the most impactful way."
What can we do about it? As well as knowing that we should tackle digital exclusion, it’s also clear that we can. There are many local businesses and organisations that want to contribute to addressing the issue in our region, and a priority for the Cambridge Ahead Digital Exclusion Task and Finish group is creating a pathway between them and those most in need. Therefore, the group’s intention is to work alongside local partners to effectively channel support – whether in terms of providing digital technology or supporting skills development – in the most impactful way. The group will be exploring digital exclusion by focussing on access to technology and devices, access to skills, and access to data connection.
What does the Digital Exclusion Task and Finish group intend to achieve: As we progress through the year, our intention is to showcase examples of best practice from within our membership, whilst strengthening networks with organisations who are helping to support those living in digital poverty. Not only do we want to inspire and empower other organisations to address digital exclusion, the group also wants to set up sustainable and responsive connections across the city to support communities to get online. Where quantitative data on digital poverty is limited locally, on-the-ground insights from partners will be crucial in ensuring that any interventions we make are appropriate and as impactful as possible.
Though we know this group cannot tackle every aspect of this complex issue, we are looking forward to working collaboratively with partners to play our part and promote digital inclusion as a pillar of the future sustainable and inclusive growth of our region.