#GiveNTech project provides a lifeline for families and elders during lockdown
Working with institutions like Avon Fire Authority and Bristol Waste, Cleo Lake’s #GiveNTech campaign to combat digital exclusion in Bristol been providing laptops to families and individuals since its launch in May.
While lockdown restrictions and the closure of schools has made life more difficult for many families, the burden has not fallen on everyone equally, and the lockdown has exposed existing inequalities such as digital exclusion. This is the gap between those with and without easy access to computers and the internet – something which has become a lifeline for many as more parts of our lives have shifted online during the lockdown.
For children in families that have no computer or just share a single laptop, or that have poor internet access, keeping up with schoolwork from home can be difficult or impossible, and educational inequalities are likely to have increased during the pandemic.(1) Meanwhile seniors who are self-isolating but lack internet access or can’t afford a tablet have found themselves suddenly cut off from their communities and family, and unable to access the online events that have emerged during lockdown.
In May, Green Councillor Cleo Lake launched the #GiveNTech campaign, working with Avon Fire & Rescue, Bristol Waste and local charity DigiLocal. The initiative aims to collect, refurbish and distribute unused IT hardware. Donations such as old laptops or tablets are collected, wiped of data, cleaned, fixed and given to those who need them. Councillor Lake has been pressing Bristol Council departments and more recently WECA (the regional authority) for support to ramp up the project and help it to reach the many more people who experience digital exclusion.
DigiLocal have been partners on the project wiping and reformatting laptops whilst Bristol Waste have assisted with PAT testing.
Mimi, a single parent in Ashley, discussed how the scheme had made a difference to her family. She said:
“It was so helpful to us as a family to receive the laptop, particularly in this time when the schools are shut. It’s allowed my son to access study materials online and helped us to be able to keep in touch with family both in the UK and overseas which has really helped to keep my mind at rest. It’s also helped me with being able to access services and support over lockdown and, as a single parent, those resources have been invaluable to both my son and I.”
“As well as providing laptops for children, I have also been assisting elders to get online which has been a joy – it has made a huge difference, with elders being able to socialise again, many of whom have not been outside of their homes since early March. I deliver a weekly creative dance exercise class via zoom and it’s been really nice connecting together – it is just obvious how this boosts wellbeing on many levels.”
“Whilst the Government seems quite adamant on sending children back to school as a priority in September, we still have to reserve an element of wait and see, and in any case there may well be parents who decide that they will continue to home school their children in the short or longer term. And even when the pandemic is long gone, a lack of access to digital resources will continue to hurt the life chances of children in poor families all over Bristol.
“But whether for school children or elders, we still need many more laptops to meet demand for the campaign. Anyone with ideas or laptops please do get in touch, any and all support is welcomed. Residents in my own ward of Cotham have been particularly helpful having donated the largest number of laptops. Thank You Cotham!”
People or organisations wishing to support the campaign or donate old IT hardware should contact Cleo Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Cllr Lake helping Ashley resident Hazel get connected to the internet with a new laptop.
1) Researchers have suggested that educational inequalities between children from poorer and wealthier families are likely to be exacerbated by the lockdown. The following article by Professor Anna Vignoles (Professor of Education, University of Cambridge) and Professor Simon Burgess (Professor of Economics, University of Bristol) cites various sources: https://www.ukfiet.org/2020/the-covid-19-crisis-and-educational-inequality/
– Digilocal – https://digilocal.org.uk/ – is a charity that supports communities to run free tech clubs for their young people
– See previous press coverage in Bristol 24/7 https://www.bristol247.com/news-and-features/news/call-for-citywide-action-to-tackle-digital-exclusion/
– Cleo Lake is a Green Party Councillor for Cotham, Bristol’s former Lord Mayor and a member of Avon Fire Authority