The mayor of London has launched a digital exclusion task force to reduce the capital’s digital divide. The task force, which includes mayor Sadiq Khan, London councils, and charity London Grid for Learning (LGfL), aims to tackle digital exclusion in London, increasing people’s digital skills and providing disadvantaged people with refurbished devices.
The launch coincides with England’s third coronavirus lockdown, which forced schools to close and young people to learn from home, despite many not having the devices to do so. Khan said: “Every schoolchild in London should have the equipment they need to continue learning online during a lockdown.
“But it’s the sad reality that there are still many who will struggle with this because they or their families don’t have the equipment they need, and so face having their schooling disrupted.
“Thousands of Londoners have already helped by donating their old devices, and I’m sure many more will help over the coming weeks – you can find charity partners through the list on City Hall’s website.”
Khan added: “The pandemic and the restrictions to limit the spread of the virus will continue to have a profound impact on all our lives. But I’m determined to work with organizations across the capital to do everything possible to ensure children can gain a good education despite the challenges we all face.”
For many young people, learning from home is a challenge, either because of a lack of devices or connectivity. Research from communications regulator Ofcom estimates that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million children in the UK do not have access to a laptop or device for home schooling, and 7% of households can only access the internet through mobile connectivity.
The government is giving away laptops to students who need them most, but many have called for more to provide young people with the tech they need for home schooling. Labour has urged the government to adopt its recommendations for delivering technology for at-home instruction, and Khan has written to education secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to do more to address the lack of devices for many schoolkids.