The East End Community Foundation (EECF) and partners of the Connecting Communities project, distributed vital IT equipment to 30 families at a school in Tower Hamlets, London, where over 50 per cent of students do not have access to online learning.
In the East End of London, 50,000 homes lack access to the internet, creating a barrier to accessing education, employment opportunities and vital services. The Coronavirus pandemic threw a spotlight on the digital inequality that exists in the UK and the associated impact this has on children’s learning. In just one year, the learning gap between rich and poor students grew by over 46 per cent, with lack of access to internet and IT equipment identified as a major factor. Even prior to the pandemic, research showed a correlation between lack of digital access and educational, social and economic disadvantage.
The Connecting Communities project was established in June 2020 by EECF in partnership with the Letta Trust, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council, and Poplar Harca, to tackle digital inequality in the East End. The project works with schools in Tower Hamlets, who identify students and families most in need of support, and provides them with a laptop, 12-months free broadband, and digital training. Manorfield Primary School is the ninth school the project has supported, and IT equipment and digital support has now been provided to over 200 families. It is hoped that the model can be replicated and scaled up to improve many more lives in the East End, including older people, who make up 79 per cent of those affected by digital exclusion.
In today’s society, the Internet is a basic utility that each and every one of us should have access to. Low-income families who cannot afford IT equipment or internet access are immediately at a disadvantage – students cannot access online learning and training, people cannot search for or apply for jobs online, and digitised public services such as Universal Credit cannot be accessed, pushing people further into poverty.
Digital inequality disproportionately affects families in the East End, where 50 per cent of homes are below the poverty line. I am delighted that by providing these laptops today, we are one step closer to closing the digital divide in the East End and opening up opportunities that so many of us take for granted. We are grateful to Hill Group, whose generous donation to Connecting Communities has allowed us to provide these laptops today.
The last 18 months have shown how important it is for families to have access to IT equipment at home. As we start work on the long-term plans for the Teviot Estate it is vital that we respond to the immediate needs of the community. We are delighted to donate to the Connecting Communities project by providing laptops to Manorfield Primary School, which will help close the digital divide and enable essential online learning.
This is a fantastic opportunity for so many of our families at Manorfield. The Connecting Communities project will have a long-lasting legacy, making a difference to children and their families for many years to come. Thank you so much to everyone involved.
By the end of 2021, the partnership aims to connect over 300 low-income homes with the internet, IT equipment and digital training.
If you would like to support the Connecting Communities project, please click here.