The Good Things Foundation has announced it will be using £500,000 from the National Lottery Fund to help the digitally excluded to gain digital skills.
The charity hopes to upskill 4,000 people across England who are digitally excluded and who are part of communities negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Helen Milner, CEO of the Good Things Foundation, said: “We want to make sure that everyone – especially those most vulnerable in this pandemic – has the digital access, skills and support they need in these difficult times. Digital has been a lifeline for many of us in lockdown.
“Thanks to National Lottery, we will be able to purchase devices and data packages so that our community partners can extend this lifeline to those who need it most. We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised the value of our work and network of community partners.”
The Good Things Foundation, which is focused on promoting social and digital inclusion, will use the fund to distribute devices amongst digitally excluded people, help with connectivity of these devices through mobile SIM cards and dongles, and give people the skills needed to use these devices.
According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, 2.2 million people were asked to shield during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but last year there were also around 700,000 digitally excluded people in the UK who cannot access digital technology, leaving some people who might be in both categories possibly lacking access to useful information or services.
There has been raised concern about people’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, especially for those who are forced to isolate away from others and cannot use technology to stay in touch with friends and family or complete basic online tasks.
The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown across the UK highlighted an existing skills gap, with many not able to use technology to the extent they were required to during lockdown.
There was a digital skills gap in the UK even before the pandemic – research has shown that less than half of adults have the skills to complete basic digital tasks, such as downloading apps or using online maps, and 40% of people in the UK do not have the digital skills required for most jobs.
The Good Things Foundation charity, which has a number of community partners, has already seen an increase in the need for help with digital skills and access during the outbreak.
The charity’s community partners help to identify the people who need assistance getting online, and will provide devices and skills to these people either remotely or on their doorsteps with the help of “digital champions” within these communities.
The National Lottery Fund, which has provided the cash for the venture, awards funds to projects across the UK which are aimed at helping communities.
Elly De Decker, England director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “As we all adapt to profound changes during the Covid-19 pandemic, tackling loneliness and isolation is more important than ever.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, vital funding for Good Things Foundation will support people who have been digitally excluded during the pandemic, to learn the essential skills needed to help them feel better connected and less isolated to their community.”
A report earlier this year by the Good Things Foundation found that almost seven million people will lack the basic digital skills needed for day-to-day life by 2028, and that giving people these basic digital skills could benefit the economy to the tune of £21.9bn within the next 10 years.