County Broadband’s commitment to tackling digital exclusion is a New Year key goal

The magical clean slate of a brand new year provides the perfect opportunity to instil fresh goals, whether that’s personally as an individual, or collectively within a group, such as your employer.

But here’s a pertinent reminder to also not forget recent or even historic January promises that you made to yourself or your chosen group. Why not simply maintain last year’s New Year’s resolution?

And here at County Broadband, we are not going to rest on our laurels when it comes to the important topic of digital exclusion throughout 2024. We have a long-standing commitment of ensuring we are giving something back to the local communities which we serve.

Credit: Scott Graham / Unsplash

Closing the digital divide with laptop PC donation

To add context and serve as a reminder: in summer 2023, we donated £10,000 worth of computer equipment to help lift disadvantaged people out of digital inequality across Essex, where we’re based in the East of England. This amount was equivalent to 12 laptops and six desktop computers.

We partnered with Digital Essex to support its Laptop Recycling Scheme in which unused laptops no older than seven years old are digitally wiped and recycled. The money raised is then used to buy brand new laptops for local individuals and families classed as being ‘digitally excluded’.

In general, people identified as ‘digitally excluded’ are defined as being unable to access digital technology adequately or permanently. This could be through a lack of digital skills for educational reasons or being unable to afford devices such as smartphones or computers, or both.

And did you know that, according to a recent government report on digital exclusion, an estimated 1.3 million UK households do not own an internet-enabled device?

It is our firm belief that, in our increasingly digital world, no-one should be excluded from the right to benefit from online banking or digital health services that can make a huge difference to the lives of vulnerable people.

Over the last few months since our donation, our laptops have been refurbished with new hard drives and, once everything is complete and ready, the refurbished laptops will be distributed across Essex via community hubs and Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) teams.

Digital Essex is part of Essex County Council and is the central body for countywide digital initiatives.

In a statement last year, it said: “We would like to thank County Broadband for their generous donation of laptops and desktop computers. These will be used to help the many families and older residents who are offline and rely on donations like these to interact with the online world.

“With the support of County Broadband, we are helping to close the digital divide in Essex by giving residents the tools they need to get online.”

Get Online Week and community webinars

Back in October 2023 for the annual Get Online Week awareness campaign, we worked closely with Digital Essex and Digital Access, the team in charge of Essex County Council volunteers, to hold in-person computer skills sessions across a number of village and community halls.

For example, we held our free webinars at Wethersfield Sports Pavilion and Earls Colne Village Hall, and other events were supported by partners including Age Well Colchester.

Meanwhile, County Broadband launched a new community grant-giving independent charity, the Hypercharged Foundation, in 2023. One of the first recipients to secure funding was Great Paxton Recreation Ground in Cambridgeshire which received £2,500 to support the upkeep of its land including a new ride-on lawnmower.

The Hypercharged Foundation has been set up with thousands of pounds of grant funding available to support local organisations making a positive impact in rural communities across the East of England.

These are perfect examples of the type of community engagement that is set to continue across our local communities within our rollout areas across the East of England throughout 2024.

Whether you’re a resident or business, you can check if you’re covered in County Broadband’s rollout by entering your postcode at www.countybroadband.co.uk where you can also register your interest in finding out more about the infrastructure and service.