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Local councillors endorse new digital inclusion policy

31 Jan Local councillors endorse new digital inclusion policy

Councillors have approved a new policy that will give access to digital technology to some of the borough’s most disadvantaged residents.

The new Digital Inclusion Policy was approved at a meeting of Basildon Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday 28 January.

The policy provides a council-wide approach to ensure that everyone can take advantage of the opportunities that technology offers and aims to ensure no one will be left behind.

The policy is broken down into five key areas the council has established need to be addressed: Connectivity, accessibility, skills, confidence and motivation. The council will be working with a range of partners to deliver the policy.

While much media attention has, not surprisingly, focused on the needs of young people attempting to study from home whilst schools are closed this policy embraces all age ranges and the different challenges and requirements of all residents.

Councillor Gavin Callaghan, Leader of Basildon Council and Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee said: “In 2021 when information is so readily available, those without the proper access or consistent digital connectivity are at risk of being cast adrift.

“This policy gives us the mandate to tackle the inequality that prevents disadvantaged individuals and families from accessing the same opportunities as everyone else, including higher earnings, better employment opportunities and even improved well-being through simple connection to others.

“The policy will ensure we capitalise on the rollout of fibre broadband across the borough, supporting those who have previously been excluded to develop the skills and confidence they need to make the most of the technology available. This will change the lives of many of our residents and their families for the better.”

The Digital Inclusion Policy was created after months of consultation with Basildon Council’s COVID-19 Response Working Group to ensure issues raised by the pandemic were appropriately reflected, including the problems faced by those learning from home and those trying to access council services.

Councillor Aidan McGurran, who chairs the working group and the Economic Development and Recovery Committee said: “Never has it been more important for all of our residents to have access to the digital world.

“Our youngest residents have faced months of attempting to study from home. The very real danger is those from more disadvantaged backgrounds fall even further behind through no fault of their own. As a council we are determined not to let that happen.

“The pandemic has shone a light on how vital digital inclusion is for our residents – of all ages.

“We want all of our residents to have proper access to digital technology to give them real opportunities in employment and training that would be denied them otherwise.

“And for some of our more vulnerable residents – many of whom who have had to shield for long periods of time – it is vital they are connected with the wider world which in turn helps combat the deep problems caused by social isolation.”

Last year, through its membership of the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) Basildon received additional funding to support the rollout of full fibre broadband across the borough.