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Digital inclusion Digital

Mayor call for support to get residents online

Mayor of Greater Manchester calls on businesses and community groups to support residents to get online

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has launched two pioneering initiatives as part of a renewed drive to support Greater Manchester’s most disadvantaged residents to get online and be supported to access services online.

In response to the increased cost of living in Britain and concerns around the impact of this on our poorest households, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester has launched the Greater Manchester Databank, part of the National Databank run by Good Things Foundation, alongside phase three of the Greater Manchester Technology Fund (GM Tech Fund) which was first established in 2020.

The region’s goal is  to get free mobile connectivity to people who need it by working with digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation to launch the National Databank locally, in a bid to tackle digital poverty across Greater Manchester.

Andy Burnham is calling on local community organisations across Greater Manchester to apply for access to the databank, through the databank organisations can support local residents experiencing multiple inequalities with connectivity offers including 12 months free data and access to digital skills training and support.

The National Databank, run by Good Things Foundation, currently has enough data to help 500,000 people nationally, with data donated by internet service providers Virgin Media O2, Vodafone and Three.   

Encouraging uptake of the support available through the National Databank across Greater Manchester will help ensure residents can access this data and connect to the internet for free, helping prevent residents on low incomes from becoming locked out of the opportunities that digital access brings such as the ability to apply for jobs, access health services and stay connected with friends and family.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “The time has come where we need to see digital connectivity and the ability to participate digitally as a basic human right. The National Databank from Good Things Foundation will go a long way in helping us tackle the issue of digital poverty and supporting our residents to ensure they do not get left behind, so I’m pleased to be launching a drive for take up of this offer across Greater Manchester."

Helen Milner OBE, Group CEO of social change charity Good Things Foundation said: “The pandemic didn’t create the digital divide - but it did expose and exacerbate it. Fixing the digital divide is now an urgent priority.

Building on the work of our Data Poverty Lab, we have, with Virgin Media O2, developed the pioneering National Databank, a world-leading ‘national food bank for connectivity data’, to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in communities across the UK to get connected. Community organisations can apply for access to the databank.

We’re delighted to launch the databank in Greater Manchester, an area that is doing so much work to tackle digital exclusion and support disadvantaged families. Together, we can fix the digital divide - for good.”

The Mayor has also launched the latest phase of the GM Tech Fund, calling on the business community to support disadvantaged families across the region by donating technology and connectivity to the fund.

The GM Tech Fund, which to date has supported over 3,537 people, was first set up in 2020 to support digitally excluded young people with the technology and connectivity needed to continue their learning at home whilst schools and colleges were closed.

Donations received in phase three of the GM Tech Fund will be used to support students from Pupil Referral Unit’s (PRU) alternative education provision for young people who are not able to attend mainstream school, and Special Educational Need and Disabilities (SEND) schools. The GM Tech Fund will provide schools in need of support with a package tailored to their specific needs including devices and skills support. 

Andy Burnham continued: “We know that a lack of digital access and skills can have huge negative impact on a person’s life, leading to increased loneliness and social isolation, less access to jobs and education.”

“That’s why I’ve launched the latest phase of the GM Tech Fund and am urging our business community to support the GM Tech Fund, in whatever way they can to help combat the impact of this cost-of-living crisis and ensure that Greater Manchester’s most disadvantaged families are not left behind.”

Councillor Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester and GMCA Lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships and Digital said: “In Greater Manchester we are dedicated to being a digital city-region that puts our residents at the heart of our plans. We know that digital brings great opportunities for all of our communities and we want to make sure that age, location, background or income is no barrier.

“The work being done in Greater Manchester to tackle the digital divide through initiatives like the Greater Manchester Databank and GM Tech Fund will help us make some significant steps towards achieving our ambitions by supporting disadvantaged residents to benefit from the opportunities digital brings.” 

The Mayor has set a clear belief that digital inclusion should be seen as a basic human right and the fifth utility that everyone needs to be able to thrive in today’s society.  

In May 2021, the Mayor announced ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the skills, connectivity, and technology to get online. 

As part of that ambition, the Mayor established a Digital Inclusion Action Network which brings together a cross sector of organisations to lead targeted action to combat digital exclusion in Greater Manchester. Both the Greater Manchester Databank and the GM Tech Fund initiatives are outcomes of this network and will help Greater Manchester progress towards these ambitions, helping more residents online.

Businesses can support the GM Tech Fund by:

  • Donating new devices particularly laptops and iPads   
  • Donating preloved working devices which will be repurposed for use 
  • Offering skills and career support for both teachers and young people 
  • Volunteering with GMCA through the Bridge GM team, to support young people to engage with future pathways, learn about careers and realise their potential.

More information is available on the GM Tech Fund and how to support it.

Community organisations can apply to access the Greater Manchester Databank by:

  • Signing up to become a member of the Good Things Foundation Online Centres Network
  • Completing a short application form to join the National Databank. 

More information on the Greater Manchester Databank and how to apply is available.

Article Published: 17/06/2022 09:45 AM