COVID-19 response

Digital Response to COVID-19

The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting all areas of life in many and substantial ways, the GMCA Digital Portfolio have been identifying ways digital technologies can be used to improve people’s lives across Greater Manchester. This has not only included new innovations but assessing the possibility of bringing forward priorities identified in the GM Digital Blueprint.  

The GM Digital Blueprint sets out the next chapter in our ambition to be recognised as a world-leading digital city region, with an ongoing commitment to taking an open, innovative and connective approach to delivering that ambition.  

We remain committed to being a digital city-region with a difference. By putting people at the heart of our plans we aim for a more inclusive approach that builds on our greatest asset. 

Greater Manchester Digital Drive

Greater Manchester businesses impacted by COVID will be offered free support to build their online presence and reach a wider market as part of a new scheme.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Business Growth Hub have partnered with THG Ingenuity, the Technology Services division of Manchester-based THG, a global technology platform specialising in taking brands direct-to-consumers, to launch Greater Manchester Digital Drive, an initiative which provides businesses with free access to “off the shelf” tools to help them get online or improve their existing digital offer.

Greater Manchester businesses offered free support to build online presence as part of a new scheme (news story)

Greater Manchester Digital Platform

The platform was built to ensure that professionals supporting residents have the right information, at the right time and in the right way. It provides the infrastructure that can be rapidly adopted in other priority areas to drive improvements in the health and wealth of Greater Manchester’s 2.8m citizens, whether this is in health, care or the wider public sector.  The platform has been used in response work, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Including:

Community Hub Volunteer Application 

Communities in Greater Manchester are now benefitting from a new app set up to help match volunteers with vulnerable people in need of support during the Covid-19 pandemic. The app has been developed in response to the ongoing need for volunteers to support our most vulnerable citizens in essential tasks including food shopping and collecting medicines. 

As the increase in humanitarian need across our communities continues, there has been a heightened requirement to simplify the process of coordinating volunteer activity for councils and community hubs allocating tasks. The application helps understand need and demand more clearly and appropriately and helps effectively match volunteers with requests received.

The Community Hub Application which is now being used in Bury and Rochdale, provides a platform that all parties involved in logging, assigning and volunteering can access, helping to coordinate contact between centres, Hub Managers and volunteers. The application also helps to collect the required information to match appropriate support to citizens and their needs.

Situation Reporting System

The Greater Manchester Situation Reporting System, which sits on the platform, was developed to monitor PPE levels, death figures, infection rates and outbreaks during Covid-19 to identify early signs of instability in adult social care settings to ensure swift action can be taken.

The reporting system allows all 10 Greater Manchester councils to share data in one place, creating a dashboard of information which shows a coherent picture of operational pressures during covid-19.

The Greater Manchester Technology Fund

The Greater Manchester Technology Fund provides schools and colleges with the technology needed in ‘at-home’ settings to continue their learning. The fund will reach and support the most vulnerable young people and their families across the region. 

The new Technology Fund aims to provide learners at risk of digital isolation with the technology and connectivity needed to continue their learning at home while schools and colleges remain closed.  It is estimated that levels of digital exclusion are up to four times higher amongst those schools with the highest level of pupils eligible for a free school meal, with 19% of pupils in Greater Manchester claiming free school meals. Provision of this kit will initially focus on recipients of free school meals, allowing these young people to continue their education from home, stay in touch with friends and family and provides teachers and tutors with a mechanism for support. 

Greater Manchester Cyber Safety Campaign 

In the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has detected more UK government branded scams relating to Covid-19 than any other subject. Law enforcement, government and private sectors partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The GMCA are sharing useful resources to raise awareness of the increasing online risks due to COVID-19 amongst residents and are providing practical advice on staying safe online. 

The Greater Manchester Growth Company are leading on the delivery of communications on cyber-crime messaging and support for the business community (Business Growth Hub, opens in new window).

Capping phone charges for older residents 

Mayor of Greater Manchester and then Digital City-Region lead Elise Wilson, wrote to government and telecoms chiefs asking them to cap phone charges for over-75s across all providers and provide assistance for low-income households.