Guest blog: Let's fix the digital divide

Guest blog by Good Things Foundation. The charity works with over 3,000 community based digital inclusion hubs across the country to provide face-to-face support and a range of free digital inclusion help for those in need.

The opening paragraph of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee digital exclusion inquiry discusses how 'everything from housing and healthcare resources to banking and benefits systems is shifting online at an unprecedented rate' (Communications and Digital Committee: Digital exclusion report 2023). It is later discussed how high street bank closures make it harder for people to manage money without digital tools, and customer helplines are being replaced by chat functions or online contact forms requiring email addresses, leading to poorer service for those unable to use them. 

At Good Things Foundation, we see first hand the impacts of digital exclusion. The people we support struggle with limited connectivity, a lack of device, and/or digital skills and confidence, and are held back from accessing financial services as a result. This is particularly problematic as not only has the pandemic exposed digital exclusion and widened the equality gap, but the cost-of-living crisis is set to exacerbate experiences of poverty – including data poverty – even further. People facing digital exclusion: 

  • Can’t find cheaper deals as easily to save money or switch services - the ‘online poverty premium’; 

  • Can’t access support, including state support and entitlements, as easily; 

  • Can’t access information, advice and guidance, including with problem debt or money-saving, as easily; 

  • Can’t save valuable time through doing things online – compounding pressures for people on lower incomes who are ‘time poor’ – juggling jobs alongside caring responsibilities and longer commutes

This is why digital inclusion support – such as that provided by Good Things Foundation – is so integral.

Good Things Foundation is the UK’s leading digital inclusion organisation (Good Things Foundation). 

We work with over 3000 community based digital inclusion hubs across the country to provide face-to-face support and a range of free digital inclusion help for those in need. The digital inclusion hubs make up our National Digital Inclusion Network (National Digital Inclusion Network), and they offer services including: the National Databank - like a foodbank but for mobile connectivity data (free SIMs with 6-12 months connectivity); the National Device Bank, professionally refurbishing old devices and distributing them to people in need; and digital skills platform Learn My Way. 

Since 2010 Good Things Foundation, and partners, have helped over 4 million people across the UK and Australia to have better lives through digital.

We have worked on a range of financial digital inclusion initiatives, more recently with Virgin Money who have transformed some of their branches into local Databanks - being able to provide free mobile connectivity SIMs to those on the wrong side of the digital divide, alongside their banking offer. Financial services such as banks and building societies are important to local people - as so often they are in the heart of their community and they are talking to people everyday, some of whom may gladly welcome extra help, especially during the cost-of-living challenges. They can be a local Databank and/or act as signposts to other local digital inclusion services too, such  as those provided by a digital inclusion hub in the area. 

Good Things Foundation champions communities. We work with digital inclusion hubs across the country to ensure that all communities have somewhere for people to find support, as we know the power of local provision to ensure people’s needs are met in a warm and welcoming environment. It’s only in partnership that we can achieve our goals to ensure every community has a place to go for their digital inclusion support, and fix the digital divide for good.

Get in touch:

Are you a building society who can help us? Can you become a Databank and support digital excluded people across the UK? Get in touch with us on partnership@goodthingsfoundation.org to find out more about working together. Helen Milner OBE Group CEO, Good Things Foundation

Visit www.goodthingsfoundation.org/ to find out more