Digital connectivity will quickly become a lifeline for our most vulnerable people in the COVID-19 emergency. However, in the most vulnerable populations we have many people who do not have:
- Access to an internet enabled device and / or broadband or 4/5G
- The ability to use them even if they do have them (significant numbers will be unable to use them or they will be sitting in a cupboard)
- The ability to pay for access to the internet, maintain devices when they break etc.
- Other vital services such as a landline or television.
So – we need an emergency national aid effort to mobilise immediately to:
- Find them – coordinate across NHS, Local Authorities, Third Sector etc. to identify those people.
- Get devices to them – important here will be to learn from the lessons of international emergency. Lots of well-meaning attempts to get donations of old kit etc. and circulate creates more problems than it solves. We need a single device type, new not secondhand.
- Get broadband or mobile internet access to them (ideally both for fail safe reasons) – free for six months.
- Provide a national team of trainers and digital buddies to get people started with using the device and getting online.
- Create an ongoing support service to cope with issues with devices and ongoing training needs.
Each day that goes by will make doing this ever harder. We must start now. If we do not seize the opportunity to coordinate and do this in a large scale coordinated fashion in Scotland we will waste time and money and energy. We will fail to reach people. We will fail them.
If we do this right it could galvanise, coordinate and focus the energy in the country to help.
We believe this will be one of the single biggest steps we could take to mitigate the harms that could be visited on our most vulnerable people in coming months. Digital will become a lifeline and our most vulnerable will need it most. We must be confident that everyone has the devices and the access and the support they need.
Now, more than ever, no one should be left behind in our Digital Scotland.
Join this effort to mobilise, within a matter of weeks, a national digital emergency response team to, find, equip, train and support households who currently lack access to the internet at home (not broadband or mobile access and / or device in the home) due to poverty and who is in one of the most vulnerable population groups.
The Scottish Government, ScotlandIS, SCVO, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Glasgow Disability Alliance and many others are already working to get this moving.
We are quickly learning who is not currently online, why they aren’t online and where they are in Scotland. 15000 – 20000 are in the most vulnerable group (living in poverty and in the vulnerable group for COVID-19)
We are mobilising teams:
Team 1 – Find the people who need to be brought online, maintain database
Team 2 – Define what they need (device and training requirements) and develop training for citizens.
Team 3 – Source device and broadband and / or device access.
Team 4 – Set up distribution to local hubs and from there to households.
Team 5 – Coordinate trainers and develop and deliver training for the trainers.
Team 6 – Develop and maintain ongoing tech support
Team 7 – Develop and maintain ongoing people support (digital buddies, etc)
Team 8 – Overall project coordination and comms
If you think you can help, email Karen Meechan, COO of ScotlandIS on email@example.com – in the subject line include the team you think your company can help with and in the body of the email please detail your offer of help and an immediate contact number.
- Heather Donnelly is marketing manager at ScotlandIS, the trade association championing Scotland’s vital digital technologies industry.