Liverpool Council’s digital inclusion initiative wins national award

Liverpool City Council has scooped a top award for one of its post-pandemic pledges.

The council’s #GetConnected project, which offers 4G connections to eligible families, was voted “Best Digital Inclusion Initiative” at the annual Socitm Presidents Awards. This award is given for a digital inclusion programme which has had the most positive outcomes within a place.

At the beginning of this year, all families eligible for income-related free school meals were contacted with the offer to receive a funded broadband connection for 12 months. The project was to not only support children with learning but was also to help older family members access employment opportunities and training.

The council partnered with O2 to supply MiFi connections which means that families could just plug in and get online quickly without the need for a visit from an engineer. Equipment is pre-installed with safety filters.

Since January, over 1,300 connections have been set up, with successful applications coming from all of the city’s 30 wards. Most connections have been set up in homes in Princes Park, Speke Garston, and Norris Green wards.

The scheme is now closed for this academic year but will re-open in September and it is also hoped to expand the eligibility of the scheme to other groups of young people.

Council partners were also given the chance to support Get Connected with 8×8, Arlingclose, Capita, LiquidLogic, and Onward Homes all getting involved with about £90,000 of social value secured. Opportunities to support #GetConnected are still available. A connection for one family for 12 months costs no more than £250.

#GetConnected is just one part of the council’s commitment to bridging the digital divide in Liverpool. This includes the city’s £7.2m Liverpool 5G Create: Connecting Health and Social Care project, a consortium of social care and health providers, universities, third-sector providers and technology experts, which is seeking to reduce digital poverty, improve health and support people to live independent lives.

Socitm is the Society for Innovation, Technology and Modernisation and is the membership organisation for developing and delivering public services.

Cllr Jane Corbett, Deputy Mayor and lead for the ‘#GetConnected pledge, said, “This win for the #GetConnected project is a real tribute to the group that drove this work forward and made sure that families could get online as easily as possible.

“We knew before the pandemic how important digital connectivity is in many areas of our lives, and the last two years have underlined that. And as the cost of living crisis starts to bite making sure that no-one is left behind with technology is more important than ever.

“As chair of the council’s Poverty Action Group, digital access is classed as one of the eight basic needs, along with food, fuel, clothing, home, financial security, access to justice, and access to essential transport. It is critical to the health and wellbeing of residents and our continuing work with the 5G Consortium also supports this.

“Our aim is to make this commitment to families sustainable so thanks also go to our partners who understood that value of this work and committed to the project. If you run a business and would still like to get involved – please contact us!”

Image: Alison Hughes (L) Liverpool City Council’s Assistant Director for ICT, Digital and Customer, receives the Best Digital Inclusion Initiative award

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