Schemes such as #GetOnlineLondon are a great resource to draw on if they can make access to devices easier and keep awareness in the public eye. However. it decorates a mere wall within the House of Digital Inclusion.
The work of the VCS on the ground, brokering the relationships, building trust and delivering when other projects come to an end (and the shiny tinsel falls from the tree) must both be recognised for the tireless energy piecing things together and, importantly, for the insight gained during and post lockdown.
The rich pool of specialism they provide should be informing the next phase of any London-wide (if not nation-wide) resource or asset. Our experience of working with ‘Big Name’ organizations during lockdown was often one of incomplete delivery and difficult processes.
The stories of donations were great but often the cost of these (in terms of the operation, the setting up and the sending back of items) was higher than if we can funded the data and devices ourselves.
Lessons had to be learned and continue so.
For me it’s a missed opportunity that the VCS leaders throughout COVID in London are not instrumental in the set up, and distribution side of Get Online London. The insights gained by organizations such as Community Tech Aid, CatBytes and Power2Connect could and should be harnessed to make the acquisition, set up and distribution of devices effective and hyper-locally relevant.
These are the types of organization that will fulfil referrals or set up an inappropriate device when the larger schemes can deliver on the ground.
Speak to organizations such as Millennium about how to ignite hordes of younger people hungry to learn coding and inspire the generations moving forward and to learn from hyper specialists such as Paul Clayton and Alex Barker about assistive technology, appropriate device set up and independence for disabled residents.
This is not a grumble, but just a reminder to everyone that there isn’t an end point here, we must and can learn, share and develop from each other – but to do so we must do so!