The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the London Councils have launched a new task force to tackle digital exclusion in the city. Led by London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, the project will address connectivity, devices, and skills. Recent research in the UK shows only 10% of schools across the country report that all of their students have a laptop . It’s estimated that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million UK children (9%) lack access to a laptop, desktop, or tablet at home – and that more than 880,000 live in a household with only a mobile internet connection.
The Mayor and council leaders are encouraging residents, businesses, and the general public to donate old devices to London-based and national charities so they can be upcycled for those most in need. The Mayor recently donated hundreds of computers formerly used by Greater London Authority staff to charities working with London’s elderly, homeless and refugees.
Blackwell plans to map out the need for devices and reliable connectivity across London, which will play a key role in helping allocate investment in digital infrastructure and help Londoners gain necessary digital skills. To support this, the Mayor has allocated £1.5 million (~ $2.1m US) over the next two years in his draft budget to work with the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI).
The task force is also working with the charity, London Grid for Learning (LGfL), which has already provided 100,000 devices for schools around the country during the first lockdown. LGfL is currently working to secure a wireless connectivity deal with a major mobile network and is helping schools recondition older devices.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Every school child in London should have the equipment they need to continue learning online during lockdown. But it’s the sad reality that there are still many who will struggle with this because they or their families don’t have the equipment they need, and so face having their schooling disrupted. Thousands of Londoners have already helped by donating their old devices and I’m sure many more will help over the coming weeks – you can find charity partners through the list on City Hall’s website. The pandemic and the restrictions to limit the spread of the virus will continue to have a profound impact on all our lives. But I’m determined to work with organisations across the capital to do everything possible to ensure children are able to gain a good education despite the challenges we all face.”