Perhaps more than anything, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology and exposed the areas of society where digital exclusion is most prevalent. As part of its efforts to bridge the digital divide in rural communities, we received a donation of £120,000 from infrastructure operator for wireless telecommunication, Cellnex UK.
"We are living through one of the most difficult and unpredictable times, one in which all of us, and the communities around us, are suffering on many levels. With UKCF, Cellnex UK is involved directly with communities to bring together digital skills and inclusion with practical help and is striving to reduce digital inequalities throughout the UK.”
Claire Cranton, Head of Corporate Affairs for Cellnex UK
Identifying the need
This donation has been distributed among six community foundations, who have each received £20,000 to be allocated to organisations that address digital exclusion in their communities.
The areas that have received funding are:
- Community Foundation Wales. The country has the highest proportion of those with zero basic digital skills (19%) in the UK.
- Cornwall Community Foundation. 2018 ONS figures show that over 13% (circa 71,000) of the adult population have never used the internet.
- Gloucester Community Foundation: recent 2020 survey of local charities identified digital competency was identified as one of the top 10 areas that would require support for 2021, with 18% identifying the lack of digital skills as a barrier to recovery from the pandemic.
The other community foundations that have shared the funding are the Two Ridings Community Foundation, Lincolnshire Community Foundation and Suffolk Community Foundation. All three of these areas have large rural populations and have identified digital exclusion in rural communities as a key area of need.
Each community foundation has supported multiple projects with this funding: for example, Suffolk Community Foundation has funded seven different projects, including supporting young adults living with a disability to develop their digital skills through Fairview Farm Enterprises CIC and a digital inclusion programme for refugee families with Suffolk Refugee Support. Two Ridings Community Foundation have provided funding to Humber and Wolds Rural Action to establish a digital infrastructure and training pilot for village halls to get them online and connected and supporting their local communities. One of three projects supported by Gloucestershire Community Foundation is GL Communities who have received £4,000 towards the costs of equipping an IT suite at the local community centre to support young people in the areas who are digitally poor with the tools to connect to school and/or college and university and also learn the skills to become digital mentors in their local communities.
Working with the Co-op to address food poverty
Over the summer of 2020 Co-op pledged to donate 20p from sales of its three-for-two picnic offer to the National Emergencies Trust (NET) in order to fund local organisations across the country tackling food poverty
Helping holidaymakers give back to the communities that welcome them
Helping local charities and community organisations to innovate and bridge the digital divide which the pandemic has brought into sharper focus
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