Understanding the Digital Divide

At ORCA our core mission is to incite positive change. In line with the UN’s 2021 World Day of Social Justice theme- ‘A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy’, we uncover the reality of internet poverty in the UK with our Digital Divide campaign.

By the time you finish reading this sentence, there will have been 219,000 new Facebook posts, 22,800 new tweets, 7,000 apps downloaded, and about $9,000 worth of items sold on Amazon (Source: Webfx). What’s more, every day over the past five years, an average of 640,000 people went online for the first time. More and more people across the world are getting connected and discovering the infinite powers of digital, contributing to a rate of adoption that’s almost impossible to keep track of. According to research by Cisco, the number of devices connected to IP networks will be more than three times the global population by 2023. 

This rapid pace of growth has completely transformed the way we live our lives today, resulting in macro movements like; globalisation, convenience culture and of course, the ever-changing landscape of social media. We have an abundance of information at our finger-tips which has enhanced our thirst for knowledge and the way we learn entirely.  All of this has contributed to a Digital Economy that is worth over $11.5 trillion globally- equivalent to 15.5% of global GDP (Source: Oxford Economics). A number that is on an exponential upwards trajectory.

While there has been growing controversy about the role of A.I. in the workplace, a deepening concern around our personal privacy and more and more questions about the correlation between screen time and personal health, generally speaking, the infiltration of Digital has been accepted into our lives as a positive force.

We’d like you to take a minute now though to imagine what your life would be like if you were totally disconnected. While some of you may be reading this thinking ‘that sounds like the dream’, just really take a minute to imagine what effect it would have. No social connectivity, no instant gratification, no enhancement of skills and no information at the click of a button. It’s a concept that seems impossible. Unthinkable. Unfortunately, however, this is still the reality for so many people.

Only about 35% of the population in developing countries has access to the Internet, versus about 80% in advanced economies (Source: World Bank). This has not only contributed to stagnated economic growth and development but poor education and in turn, a lack of job opportunities. While a global perspective can be hard to relate to for many, have you considered what the Digital Divide might look like closer to home?

According to the ONS, more than one million households in the UK still do not have any access to the internet, with many more lacking a sufficient enough quality to cope with the rapid pace of change in the digital economy. This has meant that around 22% of the population do not have the digital skills they need to cope with everyday life (Source: NHS). Minorities, those with disabilities and low-income households are among those most affected with many struggling to afford the latest technology required to get online.

This divide has only been further exacerbated by the Corona Virus pandemic, which has resulted in growing unemployment rates and income being cut for many. It was reported that as many as one million households in the UK have struggled to afford their broadband bills over the past year (Source: Ofcom). Tens of millions more are also now reliant on pay-as-you-go services to make phone calls or access healthcare, education and benefits online (Source: The Guardian). As the full effects of the pandemic begin to take shape, more of these people are finding themselves without the means to buy data, resulting in not only social isolation but a total lack of resource to conduct their everyday jobs and educate their children given the enforced guidelines.

While initiatives have been put in place to help those who need it most and more and more research is being done to raise awareness of the issue, there’s still much more work to be done to ensure access to digital resources is opened up to everyone. On Saturday 20th February, World Day of Social Justice returns with the theme of ‘A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy’ highlighting the need to overcome the divergence, provide decent work opportunities, and protect labour and human rights in the modern era of digital technologies.

Our latest campaign ‘Digital Divide’ aims to play a small role in raising awareness of the wider initiative. Through hard-hitting infographics and eye-catching design, we hope to be able to educate others, continue to educate ourselves and help shed light on organisations helping to bridge the gap in the UK and globally.

ORCA Digital Divide logodd billboard2

At ORCA, our overarching mission is to create experiences that spark a positive impact on the world. We ultimately want to drive change for the better and this cause was one that struck a chord with every one of us. As a fortunate group who relies on Digital every day to do our jobs and, like many others, take for granted the access we have, we felt a level of responsibility to pull our resources and do what we do best.

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Like us, you may have a few devices that you no longer use at home or at work, these could potentially make a big difference to someone’s life. Below you can find links to several organisations looking to help those who need access to digital technology and resources. Please take a moment to read more about what these  do and how you can help to make a difference. 

ORGANISATIONS

ADISA / Digital Access For All

The Digital Access for All initiative, supported by ADISA  has the objective of providing refurbished equipment to help bridge the digital divide. Through the website, schools and organisations can sign-up to become beneficiaries or they can donate redundant or spare infrastructure.

Vodafone Tech Appeal

The Great British Tech Appeal is a partnership between Vodafone and Barnardos. The public and businesses can donate unwanted smartphones and tablets which will be data wiped, reboxed and redistributed. Recipients of a device will benefit from unlimited connectivity for six months, after which they can choose to stay with Vodafone as a customer or join another network.

Computer Aid

Computer Aid use computers and other ICT equipment to improve lives by enhancing educational experiences. They receive donations of computers, tablets and mobile telephones from individuals, companies, schools, universities and government agencies. These are then data-wiped, professionally refurbished and used in their projects to help bridge the digital divide. Donations can be made easily via the website.

National Business Response Network

The National Business Response Network matches business resources to community needs in the right place at the right time, through the crisis and beyond. The site features a number of requests from organisations ranging from; food, clothing and toiletries and technology. Simply visit the site to view the requests and choose which you can help with.

FURTHER READING

https://www.un.org/en/observances/social-justice-day

https://digital.nhs.uk/about-nhs-digital/our-work/digital-inclusion/what-digital-inclusion-is

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/209373/connected-nations-2020.pdf

https://www.lloydsbank.com/banking-with-us/whats-happening/consumer-digital-index/key-findings.html