Breaking Down Barriers and Tackling Digital Exclusion Are you working in Gloucestershire to tackle digital exclusion? Do you have a problem around digital connectivity that you would like to try to solve? Can you help the conversation around the digital needs of our county? Gloucestershire Community Foundation would like to explore how we can tackle digital exclusion in Gloucestershire with the support of funding from Cellnex Telecom. Our recent research found that, whilst the move to online provisions has been a lifeline for many charities, access to IT equipment, digital connectivity and competency of beneficiaries is a barrier for many organisations. For example: “The main issue highlighted by the pandemic is the access of our beneficiaries to IT equipment and mobile data” “We have not been able to meet face to face with our young people, so we have been offering a virtual option. This has meant some have dropped out due to limited broadband, dislike of an online software, no access to IT.” Twelve percent of our survey respondents said that their beneficiaries are not digitally competent and 62% said that “some beneficiaries cope well, others struggle”. This demonstrates a clear barrier to effective service delivery for those wanting to move their services online. Several reports have highlighted how charities have embraced digital solutions to overcome the challenges brought about as a result of the pandemic. The recently published Charity Digital Skills Report 2020, is the latest edition of an annual survey; data was collected from March to May 2020 and therefore provides an interesting snapshot into the digital opportunities and challenges identified by charities across the UK. The report finds that while 66% of charities were delivering all work remotely, and 61% offered more online services, 27% of charities had ceased delivery because either they, or their beneficiaries did not have the necessary skills or technology. Furthermore, though only 34% of charities said they needed financial support for new IT in March, by May this had increased to 41% suggesting that as the pandemic has continued, charities recognised they need additional resource. The report goes on to say that the pandemic has created a ‘watershed moment in how charities engage with digital.’ Those charities that have embraced digital solutions have had an opportunity to continue delivery and many are even thriving in this new digitally based world. Conversely, charities who have struggled with digital adaptions because they or their beneficiaries do not have the skills, do not have the technology, and do not have the funding to remedy these deficits, are likely to face many challenges in the coming months and years. Poor digital connectivity has also been identified as a significant threat to Gloucestershire’s growth. Funding and Collaboration We are delighted that Cellnex Telecom has provided funding to Gloucestershire Community Foundation to target digital exclusion and to work with organisations who are working in this area. The funds can be used to assist in core funding for those groups countering digital exclusion and funding can be unrestricted providing it is used to counteract digital exclusion. Cellnex Telecom is Europe's leading operator of wireless telecommunications and broadcasting infrastructures with a portfolio of 53,000 sites including forecast rollouts up to 2027. They operate in Spain, Italy, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. At Gloucestershire Community Foundation we want to encourage collaboration to start to tackle the digital issues facing communities in our county. Our plan is to convene a meeting of organisations and groups in Gloucestershire who are working digitally to support the county, can provide access to IT equipment, can provide access to digital training or who are working to improve connectivity in the county. Following the meeting, we hope to be better placed to understand where funding can be best used to tackle digital exclusion collaboratively, capitalising on the strengths of different organisations across the county. Would you like to be part of the conversation? If you would like to join us in discussing the issues and possible ways of counteracting digital exclusion in Gloucestershire, please email [email protected] with a brief summary of the digital issues your organisation faces and any work you would like to do to resolve them. We will be holding a Let's Talk about Digital Exclusion and Digital Barriers on at 1.30pm on Friday 12th March and will send out Zoom invitations to all who express an interest in during the week before the meeting. We look forward to hearing from you.