CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

It’s time to tackle ‘digital exclusion’ in the borough

02 July, 2020

• COVID-19 has exposed the major contradictions in Camden and perhaps the greatest “lesson learnt” is digital exclusion.

As many readers will be aware, to apply for most local and central government benefits you have to do this online.

It is unclear how many of our homes do not have connectivity, except by mobile phone. My guess in our area probably about 10 to 15 per cent, exacerbated by the closure of libraries.

Phones, especially if “pay-as-you-go” are not suitable, financially and otherwise, for homes which have school children and parents working from home. The monthly cost of broadband alone is high.

From posts on local social media, customers of Virgin in our area are having considerable difficulty with connectivity. Moreover the council has grandiose plans to increase the number of homes in the area by some 1,000.

So there is a golden opportunity for the council to address this problem by first ensuring free connectivity for all. Some years ago they did install this in parts of the borough, specifically aimed at mobile users.

Both Google and Facebook have major offices in the borough and could they not be approached for help?

It is, of course, possible that greater access would enable some residents to secure government benefits and thus reduce the need for free meals and food banks.

It would certainly reduce the growing inequality in our borough. To start we need a major piece of research, for once a justifiable employment of consultants.

MICK FARRANT.
Oak Village, NW5

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