Working together to tackle the digital divide

Spurred by the impact of Covid-19, telecom companies are offering services designed to close the digital divide and create equal access to technology.

BT has launched its low-cost fibre package, Home Essentials, as research reveals that access to technology is essential for those on low incomes. 

Image shows a woman in a wheelchair in a coffee shop. She in on her mobile pone and there is a laptop on the tableOver half of people from lower-income homes say that connectivity is more important than ever to manage finances, learn new skills and help improve job prospects, according to research released by BT.

The need for online access to services is particularly high among disabled people. Yet 31% of disabled people reported difficulties accessing groceries, medications, and essentials because of the pandemic compared to 12% of non-disabled people, according to a briefing by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Find out how our volunteers have been supporting people during Covid-19

The financial impact of Covid-19

Image shows someone holding a credit card in front of a laptop screen. The hand is a prosthetic limb.The impact of Covid-19 has also increased financial pressures. Nearly one in three (30%) need additional financial support, claims BT. 

Financial pressures are likely to be higher among disabled people. People with a disability are more likely to report household outgoings have increased as a result of the pandemic as of September 2020, according to Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 

They are also more likely to be facing redundancy and have had work adversely affected, the foundation says. 

Supporting access to technology for lower-income households

A raft of government and company initiatives are stepping up in a bid to close the digital divide. AbilityNet is proud to be part of the Digital Lifeline Fund, which has helped people with Learning Disabilities on low-incomes access technology. 

Broadband access for low-income families

BT’s Home Essentials aims to offer low-cost broadband at home for people claiming Universal credit. The company is providing broadband at cost.

“BT’s purpose of Connecting for Good is at the heart of everything we do,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division.”

He added: “That’s why we’re launching BT Home Essentials, our low-cost fibre package that will now include all customers on Universal Credit.”

Vodafone has also made a raft of announcements designed to bridge the digital divide. Under Buy One Give One, Vodafone has pledged that for every new and existing Vodafone Together customer, it will donate a SIM card to someone in need of connectivity in partnership with the Trussell Trust foodbank charity. 

Recipients will receive free connectivity for up to a year. 

“Digital poverty will not go away when COVID finally ends. This is a problem with deep roots, and there is no vaccine to fix it. So, we need to stay engaged and make big and lasting changes,” said Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and External Affairs Director for Vodafone. 


Supporting people to use technology

Many will need help using technology once they can access it. As part of BT’s announcement, BT will provide its 12,000 service colleagues with extra training to better identify those who need assistance and help keep them connected

We've recently partnered with Be My Eyes to better support visually impaired customers. 

AbilityNet offers support to older and disabled people to adjust their technology. We have over 300+ volunteers across the UK who have been helping keep people connected during the lockdown

We’re keen to work with companies like BT and Vodafone and are committed to levelling up access to technology.

How AbilityNet can help