New scheme to provide laptops to tackle ‘digital poverty’ in Bristol

A new scheme launched this week in South Bristol to reduce digital poverty in the city.

Bristol City Council will be providing recycled laptops to those most in need, to help tackle the digital divide – made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with Bristol Waste and partners across the city, the Digital Inclusion pilot scheme is aiming to recycle and re-distribute 3,600 council laptops.

It will see the first 50 refurbished laptops going to parents of two-year-olds, without digital access, who would like to return to further education and to develop their skills and apply for work.

Other priority groups include unemployed people aged 19 plus with few or no qualifications, vulnerable older people at risk of social isolation and young people aged 16-19 (up to 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan), not in education, training or employment.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, said: “COVID-19 has brought us huge challenges. Our hope is that by making it easier for people to have access to digital technology we can help people stay connected and find new opportunities.

“Many people are working hard to bring people together to look out for one another, and we want to work with organisations and individuals in our communities to make sure people are not left behind.”

People without digital devices, data (internet access) and basic IT skills, face significant barriers to education, training and employment, as well as in accessing services and maintaining social connections.

The council will use £250k of COVID-19 funding to roll out the Digital Inclusion scheme, which will not include schools.

Laptops for schools are being funded by the Department for Education (DfE) of which the council used to provide 1,300 laptops to vulnerable children in Bristol last year.

Bristol Waste IT Reuse Scheme Project Lead, Cheryl Lee, said: “…Bringing vital IT equipment to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get online is a big step forward.

“As well as refurbishing laptops and computers for those most in need in our communities, we also have a team providing IT support to help people make the most of their devices.”

All laptop recipients will also receive a starter data package, as well as a free, introductory digital skills course, with tutor support provided by the council’s Community Learning Team.

If successful, the scheme may be expanded across the city, with some laptop recipients being trained as Digital Champions to help support others in their community.

A council webpage will be available shortly to provide details of all the different schemes that residents and organisations can donate to.

 For more information on the council Digital Inclusion scheme email: digital.inclusion@bristol.gov.uk