Manchester has been found to be the most digitally inclusive city in the United Kingdom.
After examining the number of databanks, digital inclusion hubs and digital skills workshops on offer, Manchester was found to have 11 hubs per 100,000 people. This has come thanks to the council’s dedication to combat issues such as generational poverty, health inequality and digital inclusion, seeing a dedicated team established in 2020. The dedicated digital inclusion team is based within the Libraries Service and supports the ‘Let’s Get Digital’ campaign, helping more than 6,000 residents of Manchester get laptops, cheap broadband access, and digital skills development.
People who struggle to pay for mobile data are also able to request a donated SIM card by going to any Manchester library, with these now becoming databank centres. This scheme has, so far, been of benefit to more than 1,000 people.
The digital inclusion team is also able to acts a consultancy for organisations that want to build inclusion into their service, being set up as a digital inclusion hub. Currently the team is working with more than 50 organisations to do so, with groups such as Age UK Manchester and the Booth Centre involved.
Executive Member for Skills, Employment and Leisure, Cllr John Hacking, said:
“To be recognised as the best local authority for digital inclusion nationally is vindication of the hard work we have been doing recent years.
“In today’s world it is essential that communities are connected to a range of services which more often than not exist online. If people are left digitally isolated, we run the risk of deepening the impact of poverty by failing to provide a lifeline out of it.”
Manchester City Council was also, earlier this year, invited to contribute to the House of Lords inquiry into the relationship between the cost of living and digital exclusion. The report relating to this was published last month, concluding that “the government must publish a new digital inclusion strategy and establish a new cross-government unit with direct input from Number 10.” One recommendation from this report was also that immediate and decisive action must be taken to remove barriers to internet, something that Manchester City Council is doing.
Councillor Adele Douglas, Chair of the Manchester Digital Inclusion Steering Group, added:
“Through our work on inclusion, tied to the wider Making Manchester Fairer plan we hope that eventually every one of our residents will be connected to the support they need.”
The recent launch of the Making Manchester Fairer initiative has seen the council embark on a five-year plan to tackle all of the social and health related issues that are causing inequality in the city. By addressing the digital divide that exists, the council is beginning to make in-roads on one of the great social and health challenges.
The research was carried out by USwitch.
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