UK digital inclusion project to help build a model for connected communities

Innovate UK-funded project to connect people, promote independence, and enable greater productivity in public services

A new digital inclusion project is helping to break down the barriers that limit the availability of digital services to those in need

One in six British adults today does not have internet access at home, making it harder to find information, access local servicers, and stay in touch with friends and family.

But Cisco, Bronze Software Labs, GDS Digital Services, Suffolk County Council, West Suffolk Council and the University of Suffolk, has this week announced a digital inclusion project to help address this, with the aim of breaking down the barriers that limit the availability of digital services to those who need them most.

A vital tool for connectivity, this programme will enable people to develop the necessary skills and experience to feel more confident online

The Innovate UK-funded project will be trialled over 21 months and looks to create a viable business model to help end digital exclusion.

The model is based on the premise that those who would benefit most from digital connectivity – older and disabled people and the financially challenged – are often those who are least likely to afford or adopt internet access yet are more likely to rely heavily on public services.

Today, it is estimated that 80% of government interactions with the public take place with the poorest 25% of society.

“We believe that everyone in the UK should have equal digital opportunity, from the social inclusion that connectivity can help bring, to access to healthcare services and a wealth of information that empowers social and educational mobility”, said Scot Gardner, chief executive of Cisco UK & Ireland.

“The challenge up until now has been finding the right commercial model to deliver connectivity to all.

“This project will trial a way to engage people that makes sound financial sense, is practical, and provides transformational benefits to everyone.”

The project brings together a consortium of organisations to install highly-secure broadband and connectivity in approximately 200 homes. Suffolk residents involved in this programme will either be supported by Suffolk County Council or will be residents of Havebury Housing Association.

Councillor Beccy Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult care at Suffolk County Council, said: “With many of our services now online, it is more important than ever to ensure everyone has access to digital services.

“A vital tool for connectivity, this programme will also enable people to develop the necessary skills and experience to feel more confident online.”

We believe that everyone in the UK should have equal digital opportunity, from the social inclusion that connectivity can help bring, to access to healthcare services and a wealth of information that empowers social and educational mobility

The initial priority for the project will be older and disabled people in the community.

It will also look to explore the benefits of enabling people in their own homes to use simple video technology with family members and care professionals.

As part of the project, public-sector professionals visiting homes will be able to utilise the secure connectivity to remotely access public sector networks with certification unique to Cisco routers. The connectivity will enable them to conduct their work more efficiently.

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