Sunderland Launches Free Digital Hubs to Enhance Inclusion and Wellbeing

The city of Sunderland, England is establishing a network of hubs that will provide free access to devices and wifi to build digital confidence and skills to strengthen digital inclusion. These ‘Community Digital Health Hubs’ are part of the city’s Links for Life project, which has the goal of empowering communities to improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Research has shown that one in three people in Sunderland have never been online or lack basic digital literacy skills. The twenty-two hubs launching soon will seek to deliver ‘doorstep’ digital services directly to communities, focusing on those with the least connectivity and those that are most susceptible to digital exclusion. Each hub has access to multiple tools that can be used to tailor a digital support package to fit the individual’s needs.

 “From the very start of our smart city journey, we envisioned a future where the digital divide is addressed collaboratively, ensuring that no one and nowhere is left behind,” said Liz St Louis, director of smart cities at Sunderland City Council. “Our Digital Inclusion Plan is ensuring that everyone in Sunderland, regardless of their age or situation can reap the opportunities afforded by digital.”

The project has received funding from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which has the aim of tackling digital challenges faced by cities, such as: limited connectivity; lack of access to digital infrastructure; and the cost barriers associated with going online.

The funds have been used to provide: upgraded wifi and sensor installations; the provision of digital devices; databanks; Tech Mates who act as tutors; online centers; device donation hubs; and community Esports hubs.

“The Digital Health Hubs will make a difference to residents across Sunderland at a community level, leveraging the power of digital technology to enhance residents’ health and wellbeing,” said Claire Venners, director of Smart Places UK & Ireland at Boldyn Networks. “Playing a crucial role in promoting accessible, inclusive and technology-driven solutions for communities, the Digital Health Hubs aim to empower individuals across the city. By providing access to digital devices and the internet, we can ensure residents have the necessary tools and skills to make the most of life enhancing digital resources.”