Digital Inclusion Helps Connect Communities

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

Cisco, Bronze Software Labs, GDS Digital Services, Suffolk County Council, West Suffolk Council and University of Suffolk, today 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.

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, 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, 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.

Cllr 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.”

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.

Cllr Robert Everitt, Cabinet Member for Families and Communities at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and representing West Suffolk Council said: “We are always keen to look at all ways of improving the wellbeing of our residents and this project will help make a real difference to people’s lives by providing support to people who are elderly and less able”

Public sector professionals visiting the 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.

Today’s announcement is the latest example of Cisco’s commitment to support digitisation in the UK. Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) strategy is a long-term partnership with government, industry and academia to help deliver real outcomes faster and more effectively for the nation.