Businesses asked to help tackle digital poverty

18 Mar 2021

Regional Mayor Tim Bowles is supporting a business-led campaign to supply community groups, schools and charities in need of laptops and other IT equipment.

The Mayor and the West of England Combined Authority have joined forces with Business in the Community’s National Business Response Network who are leading the campaign.

Covid-19 and the move to working online is challenging for many communities across the West of England and the National Business Response Network was set up to match business resources to community needs.

Specific needs include:

  • Laptops for children and young people from low-income households in the south west, who would otherwise struggle to continue learning from home and remain connected when needed. Although most schools are now back, there is a high chance of smaller groups isolating from time to time as well as homework being set online.
  • Laptops for young people who are not in education, employment or training and facing additional barriers and hardship.
  • Mobile phones for refugees and homeless people fleeing difficult situations with little support, to help them keep connected and access essential support services.

Businesses who can help can either visit and identify a specific request to support, or contact / 0300 303 3993 to make an offer or to find out more about what is needed in their own communities.

Tim Bowles said: “We are working with Business in the Community to appeal to businesses and organisations to donate old devices to charities for upcycling so that the most vulnerable communities can get connected.

“As part of our Recovery Plan, the West of England Combined Authority’s Workforce for the Future and Digital Skills programmes are geared towards giving our businesses people with the skills needed to adapt and evolve in our changing world. We are also helping residents to gain basic skills and get online through our Adult Education Budget. By offering more opportunities for all of our residents to connect digitally with technology like this, together we can secure our recovery and safeguard the jobs of the future.”

Chair of the Business in the Community South West Leadership Board, Rick Sturge, said: “Through the National Business Response Network we are supporting community groups, schools and charities in need, matching them with the businesses that can donate goods or services.

“We have already helped more than 86,700 people in the south west of England as they struggle to get the food, digital technology and care essentials that they need to survive the impact of Covid-19 on their jobs, lives and communities. Each connection has been an example of the generosity and mobilisation of businesses, offering a mix of resource and expertise to communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

Gresham Technologies from Bristol has already donated recycled laptops to Learning Partnership West. The laptops were used to help ensure that 12 vulnerable young people could catch up with their friends and keep up with their schoolwork.

Tom Mullan, Chief Financial Officer of Gresham Technologies, said: “It was a pleasure to be in a position to help Learning Partnership West and the vulnerable young adults they support.  For small businesses like Gresham Tech, sometimes finding an opportunity to easily be able to support our local communities is the hardest step in the journey to providing that support. BITC and the NBRN made things easy for us and we were only too happy to support.”