Digital poverty is the degree to which a person or family is deprived of the basic hardware required for both communal and personal internet access, emerging from the shift in recent years whereby internet access has gradually progressed to become a fundamental necessity and a human right, as opposed to a luxury.
As governmental, financial and educational institutions have established operations through online channels, there needs to be more thought given to people whose financial situations don’t admit them the same liberties, and Covid-19 has clearly delineated the student population in particular – the digitally privileged and disadvantaged.
This digital divide has been widening since the turn of the decade and for many people like myself, our own digital privilege has elusively deprived us of the appreciation that not every student is as fortunate as us, save for the occasional Wi-Fi mishap. Covid isn’t the reason why in disadvantaged areas, 60-70% students do not own laptops, but instead it has served the purpose in highlighting the issue itself. Lockdown has placed additional financial pressure on families and purchasing a laptop is hard to place high on a list of priorities for spending. A statement from a 37-school trust operating in the Midlands spoke of many families sharing a single phone with data as their only access point. In total the trust argues that two million households are considered to be “digitally excluded”, a circumstance which the UK’s distance learning programme has struggled to address. This issue in particular hits home, with Birmingham laptop appeals ringing out since the start of our third national lockdown. The Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) reported 5,000 children in our city as being digitally disadvantaged; an appalling statistic which we have the power to change.
With over £50 billion of electronic waste occurring globally each year, some of us in the local community have that old laptop or tablet collecting dust in a corner or have friends and family who do. Donations will help our fellow students out massively so start digging for those old devices! The BEP are asking for donations of laptops or tablets in any condition – old or new – to be repurposed for students in need specifically in Birmingham with both the Northfield Baptist Church and the Station Pub in Kings Heath accepting devices. All donated devices are then wiped clean by the Device repair shop ‘Get it Fixed’ in Longbridge. The manager of the shop, Samantha Dews said: “Here at Get It Fixed would like to reassure you that your donated laptop will be fully cleared of any data/information. Back up anything you may feel important as all data will be removed.”
I strongly believe that when we have the chance to help, we have a firm responsibility to do so.
Details will be arriving soon on how you can donate.