Austen Shakespeare

Middlesbrough Mayor launches Digital Inclusion Strategy

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston has launched a Digital Inclusion Strategy aiming to increase opportunities and create life improvements..

A Middlesbrough Council report outlines the problems suffered by many in the town without digital access in relation to impacts on access to jobs, health provisions, social contact, education and exposure to poverty.

The Digital Inclusion Strategy approved by the Council’s Executive today promises to ensure that all residents are supported to overcome digital barriers and maximise the social, health, education and economic benefits of enhanced digital access.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the benefits and often necessities of being online whether for remote learning, food shopping or keeping in touch with friends and family via video technologies.

Early in 2021 Middlesbrough was believed to be the first town or city in the country to pledge every child will have access to an internet device to support their education. The Council announced it was to spend £350k on laptops and tablets for more than a thousand children who were at risk of being left behind in their school work.

Mr Preston said: “Not being connected or able to be on line is a genuine form of poverty - it will be seen as akin to not having the heating on in your house.

“I’m really pleased we are focused on this - a year ago we were the only council in the country that went to every school to ask which kids were struggling to get online in an effort to ensure they had access to devices and connectivity.

“We didn’t reach all those in need, but it made a real difference and remains a priority for us.”

The plan would have five key aims which are:

  • Ensuring children and families are able to access digital learning and no pupil misses learning.
  • Ensuring job seekers are able to access digital skills and employment support.
  • Ensuring individuals (particularly elderly people) are able to engage with others to reduce isolation.
  • Ensuring local businesses are supported to trade digitally.
  • Ensuring town-wide connectivity plans support Middlesbrough’s digital ambitions.

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