Andy Burnham
  • @AndyBurnhamGM @greatermcr announces ambition to support all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people in Greater Manchester to get online
  • A total of 176,000 GM residents have not accessed the internet in the last three months 
  • Digital Inclusion Action Network established to drive new ambition

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has announced ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the skills, connectivity and technology to get online.

Ensuring residents can get online, access public services and develop their digital skills will drive positive social and economic change for both residents and businesses, helping to position Greater Manchester as the key city-region for businesses seeking a digitally-skilled workforce.

The announcement comes after recent figures from ONS show that 176,000 Greater Manchester residents have not accessed the internet at all in the last three months. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has estimated that this includes 1,300 under 25s, 93,000 over 75s and 77,000 people with disabilities.

More broadly, Ofcom figures suggest as many as 1.2m Greater Manchester residents might be digitally excluded in some way, for example by feeling unable to use online banking or engage with public services online. For some people this is about access to kit and connectivity, but for others it is about skills or confidence.

As part of this new ambition, the Mayor has established a Digital Inclusion Action Network, which is due to meet for the first time today (Monday 17 May) to lead targeted action to combat digital exclusion within these target groups in Greater Manchester. It will be led by people with lived experience within these target groups.

The new action network will work closely with the Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Taskforce and enable the Mayor to work in collaboration with businesses, local authorities, voluntary and charitable organisations to drive forward this ambition. It will take on a delivery focused role with a specific focus on supporting under-25s, over-75s and disabled people

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “The pandemic has highlighted invisible inequalities and increasing social divides. We have all seen more of our lives move online and this risks excluding those who do not have digital connectivity. Closing the digital divide now needs to become a much higher priority. The time is coming where we need to see digital connectivity as a basic human right. Without it, people will be shut out of the conversation, lose access to essential services and miss out on a whole range of opportunities.

 “This is why I am setting a new ambition to help all under-25s, over-75s and people with disabilities in Greater Manchester to get online. We want to create a new drive involving partners from public, private and community sectors to provide the kit, connectivity and skills that people need. The new Digital Action Network and the Digital Inclusion Taskforce will be the driving force behind this new ambition to fix the digital divide across Greater Manchester.

“Greater Manchester is the fastest-growing digital and tech hub in Europe and is increasingly seen as the UK’s leading digital city-region. Setting a new ambition of helping all under-25s online sends an important message to potential investors about our commitment to improving digital skills.”

Last year, Greater Manchester Combined Authority launched the Digital Inclusion Agenda for Change with the goal of becoming a 100% digitally enabled city-region. To deliver this ambition the Digital Inclusion Taskforce was launched, bringing together both public and private sector organisations to address the barriers of digital exclusion and the digital divide, in a co-ordinated and focussed way.

Simeon Yates, Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Liverpool said “It is great to be working with GMCA on their Digital Inclusion Agenda for Change.  I have been studying the impacts of digital exclusion on a whole range of citizens for over two decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really brought the levels and impacts of digital inequalities to light.  Being digitally included is not just about having a connection.  Access to broadband, affordability, a lack of data, lack of skills, lack of confidence, lack of exposure to technology at work, or disabilities can all lead to people being disconnected from our digital society what has become known this year as “digital poverty”.  Cutting them off from job opportunities, services and even everyday interaction with other people.

“These issues don’t just affect older adults who may not have used technology when they were younger.  Our research has identified key groups who either do not use digital technologies or only use them in limited ways.  This includes a notable number of young people who lack key digital skills and education, older users and people with long term health issues.  By working with under-25s, over-75s and people with disabilities this Greater Manchester initiative will address those most at risk of digital poverty.”

Fixing the digital divide is a key focus of the Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint, a three-year plan which sets our Greater Manchester’s commitment to being named a world leading digital city-region that puts residents at the heart of its plans.

The Greater Manchester Technology Fund was launched by Andy Burnham in April 2020, in response to the first lockdown, to support young learners facing digital isolation with the technology and connectivity needed to continue their learning at home. 

To date, the fund has supported over 1,300 disadvantaged young people with a ‘digital kit bundle’ including a laptop or tablet and the required tools to get online.

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