4 February 2021
With the UK once again in lockdown, the importance of digital inclusion has never been so urgent. Sydenham alumna Liz Williams MBE has been working at the cutting edge of this agenda.
As Chief Executive of FutureDotNow , Liz is coordinating industry action with some of the biggest companies in the UK to get all working age adults equipped with essential digital skills. Today over 17 million adults don’t have the five digital skills defined by the UK Government as essential for life and work. As Group Chair of Good Things Foundation, a social change charity working across the UK and Australia, Liz is helping people improve their lives through digital. As Social Mobility Commissioner for the UK Government where her portfolio centres around digital and the future of work.
In the last lockdown, with the help of the FutureDotNow coalition of companies, Liz set up DevicesDotNow, an emergency campaign that got over 10,000 connected devices in the hands of the most vulnerable individuals and families across the UK.
Liz is calling for a Great Digital Catch Up. The UK is leading the world as a digital nation yet 9 million adults in the UK are not able to use the internet independently. That means millions of people are not able to access the support they desperately need during lockdown. The call is for an investment of £130 million over 4 years in a Great Digital Catch Up scheme (just 2% of superfast broadband infrastructure budget) that will allow 4.5 million more people to be happier, healthier and better off.
“Frontline organisations are in desperate need of digital devices for the vulnerable people in their communities so they can help them stay connected with the outside world. Although DevicesDotNow has delivered 4,270 devices through 349 community partners to date, we have have also secured funding to support 5,921 further people, meaning we have achieved our first goal of supporting 10,000 people.
But this issue isn’t going away and we will be working tirelessly to achieve our next goal of helping 50,000 people. Receiving a tablet with a sim and the associated support that goes with it can make huge, life-changing differences for people and is an important part of our national response, ensuring they can shield effectively and alleviating strain on the NHS.
There are many things you can do to help: find out more about the campaign via the Good Things Foundation website, equally you can write to your MP or donate to the campaign.”
During the first lockdown in 2020, the GDST, reinforced by the efforts of individual schools such as Sydenham High, launched their own response to the digital divide with the GDST Academy Trust Student Support Fund to buy equipment, and provide internet access and other resources for students and their families at the two GDST Academy schools, and to date just shy of £25,000 has been raised by the GDST community.