Camden needs to act to secure web access for the more vulnerable
29 October, 2020
• PERHAPS the most worrying issue revealed by the pandemic has been the digital divide and the impact on access to services for many vulnerable residents.
In Camden the focus has been almost solely on lack of laptops for school pupils. The problem is much wider than that.
There are no reliable statistics on its extent. A rough guesstimate in the Gospel Oak / Haverstock area is that some 25 per cent of households do not have adequate internet access.
Just try to get a Covid-19 test or supermarket delivery without this, if examples are needed, never mind the wide range of council and government services that require this.
Leaving aside the cost of a mobile phone, possessing one or even two in a household is hardly suitable for home / school learning.
Providing free laptop(s) to a household does not solve the problem unless the household has access to an internet service and, more to the point, can afford to pay for it.
An estimate is that the cheapest monthly cost is £15 and there is some anecdotal evidence that some families have had to dispense with this service in order to meet bills and feed children.
Add to this the need for training, especially for older residents who need internet access just as much as school children if they are to be able cope with the pandemic.
Camden Council is in pole position to be able to address the issues. Two internet giants have massive offices in the borough and their help could surely be sought.
As a first step we suggest the council urgently undertakes a project to scope the need and begin to solve the problems.
MICK FARRANT, SUSANNE KORD, JOHN LANDAU, FRANCES RIFKIN,