Almost 5,000 people across the Liverpool City Region are set to receive free tablets, internet access and on-line skills training as part of a partnership aimed at helping people get online.
Participants in the scheme will receive a free android tablet, along with in-person training on getting the most out of the internet, plus six months of free data.
The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is facilitating the scheme, which is part of the Digital Inclusion Initiative, an industry-led programme committed to “bridging the digital divide by driving digital skills, enhancing lives through better digital connectivity, and stimulating economic growth across the UK.”
Working with Lloyds Bank and Vodafone, roll-out in the Liverpool City Region will start with a pilot delivering tablets and training to 300 local people who are unemployed or economically inactive.
People will be referred to the initial pilot from the Department of Work and Pensions Restart Scheme and the Ways to Work programme run by the six local authorities, with in-person digital inclusion group training sessions, delivered by Lloyds Digital Trainers.
Over the next year, 4,750 tablets, training and mobile internet access will be provided to people who are “digitally excluded” across the city region.
The initiative will work with partners across the community and voluntary sector, local authorities and other members of the recently launched Digital Inclusion Network – including Households into Work and Housing First – to provide this support to those in need.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Since I was elected Mayor, I’ve been on a mission to make our region the most digitally connected anywhere in the country.
“The last few years have accelerated the move towards a more digital world and proved how important connectivity and technology will be in all our lives.
“However, there are still too many people in our area who are excluded for a variety of reasons – and struggle to navigate through the digital world.
“It’s our duty to properly connect our residents up with this 21st century necessity and schemes like this will help us to directly target those who are most in need of our support.
“We’re creating what I hope will be a better-connected future that everyone in our region can benefit from – it’s proper levelling up in action.”
Catherine Rutter, Group Customer Inclusion Director at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Lloyds Bank Academy is proud to work with Digital Inclusion Initiative – this coalition of partners drives digital skills and access to devices and data throughout the UK, and will help Britain Prosper.
“We’re pleased to begin the DII Programme in the Liverpool City Region with tailored support and initiatives for specific demographics of over 4500 people.
“With our 2022 Consumer Digital Index showing that 28% of people in Liverpool City Region have low digital skills, it is vital work to increase digital inclusion and improve connectivity in the Region.”
Omar Mir, President of World Wide Technology, said: “As chairman of the Digital Inclusion Initiative, I am committed to creating a more equitable digital landscape in the UK.
“This transformative scheme will equip and empower the most digitally excluded individuals with devices, digital training and connectivity to help improve their lives and provide opportunities for economic empowerment.
“With the invaluable collaboration of our esteemed partners we will unlock the immense potential of digital access, and ensure that no one is left behind in this digital age.”
Nicki Lyons, Vodafone’s UK Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, said: “Addressing digital exclusion in all its forms is a very important issue for Vodafone. Connectivity is an essential service, and people can’t – and shouldn’t – have to live without it.
“It’s through strong partnerships that we will really make progress. People can find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide for a whole variety of reasons, from finances to a lack of skills. We are therefore very proud to be partnering with a programme such as this, that provides a full spectrum of support to get people online.
“As part of our everyone.connected campaign we have pledged to help four million people cross the digital divide by the end of 2025 and we’re pleased to be able to provide Liverpool City Region Combined Authority residents with connectivity to get them online.”
Kim Rekik, Operations Director, G4S, said: “G4S is incredibly proud to support this pivotal initiative. Through the Restart Scheme, we’ve seen first-hand the impact digital exclusion has on the long-term unemployed across the contract.
“By empowering individuals with digital devices, connectivity, and skills, we’re unlocking new opportunities and creating pathways to employment that otherwise may have been out of reach.
“In collaborating with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, and their partners, along with our robust supplier network, we aim to ensure the Digital Inclusion Project reaches those most in need.
“We believe this project is not just about embracing a digital world, but also about promoting equality, reducing socio-economic disparities, and ultimately, enhancing the lives of thousands across the Liverpool City Region. This is a substantial step towards our shared goal of supporting the long-term unemployed and driving economic growth in our community.”