Tuesday, 9 Nov 2021  |  Reading time:  14 mins  | Read online

Digital inclusion

Each week we focus on a different global topic, highlighting innovative content and insights from LGIU and our members around the world.  

This week's edition focuses on the issue of digital inclusion. The Covid-19 pandemic rapidly accelerated the digitalisation of key services across the globe, from government to education to banking. As municipal leaders look towards recovery, they are faced with a widening digital divide, where both the scale and impact of digital exclusion are felt more keenly than ever.
Who is most affected? While we might think that older people struggle most to keep up with rapid technological advances, it is often people who are in poverty who end up most digitally excluded. Digital skills are increasingly vital for jobs and accessing essential services. Digital exclusion compounds existing inequalities, including those related to genderraceage and language.
What can local governments do? Local authorities are ideally placed to offer digital literacy training and skills support to residents to ensure that their devices and data are used to their full potential. Local authorities can identify their area’s most pressing digital exclusion challenges through community engagement and partnerships. If possible, they can make low-cost devices and subsidised internet available to people in need.
Who inspired us this week? This week, we loved the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s (LBBD's) proactive approach to financial inclusion – listen to them speak alongside LGIU in this upcoming event – the ‘Reboot North Yorkshire’ initiative, which distributes recycled IT equipment to vulnerable people, and the wide-reaching Digital Inclusion Partnership in Silicon Valley centre San José.

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We are a non-profit, non-partisan organisation for anyone with a passion for local democracy and finding local solutions to global challenges.
Click here to find out more about Global Local from LGIU

This week's featured content

How digital inclusion creates financial inclusion

By Kat McManus, LGIU

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, both the scale and impact of digital exclusion have been felt more keenly than ever. Tech-based solutions such as video calls or bringing key services online have led to deepening inequalities between those with and without proper IT access. Lack of access to devices, internet access or the necessary digital skills can have ever-more-serious consequences in an increasingly digitised world, such as difficulty in accessing employment opportunities, healthcare, or education.

While we might imagine it to be older people who are unable to make use of technology, it is often those facing financial hardship who are most digitally excluded. Thanks to the rise in digital payments, online banking services, and online applications for financial services or employment, financial exclusion often accompanies digital exclusion, compounding vulnerability. As transactions are increasingly cashless and cash infrastructure is gradually removed, people who remain reliant on cash or who have limited access to digital financial services may face restricted choice in where they can spend their money, or even be excluded from accessing some services altogether.

Understanding the scope and scale of the issue is the first step to better policy formation at a national and at a local level. This requires better use of data to understand where financially fragile households are and why. It also requires a better understanding of how to reach and support people if they aren’t already ‘fully present’ online.

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Event: How can data and analytics help local authorities improve financial inclusion?

LGIU’s Ingrid Koehler and LBBD's Director of Community Solutions Mark Fowler will be exploring the issue further at a virtual techUK event next Tuesday 16 November at 10am GMT. Click here to find out more and sign up – it's free for the public sector to attend.

Small and connected: innovation as the Faroe Islands lead the way with digital services

Talgildu Føroyar is a digital platform aimed at improving the efficiency of public services and modernising welfare systems in the Faroe Islands. The platform provides lessons for the digitalisation of local government services, making for a relevant briefing for officers and members reviewing council services in the context of an increasingly digital environment. 
Read our content here.

12 steps for digital inclusion

The outbreak of Covid-19 has exposed the scale of digital exclusion in the UK beyond previous understanding. In this blog, Georgina Bowyer, Policy and Development Officer at Carnegie UK Trust, talks us through their new report Learning from Lockdown: 12 steps to eliminate digital exclusion, in which a plan of action is laid out. 
Read our content here.

The West Midlands is investing in adult social care digital leadership – and you can too

Well before the Covid-19 crisis hit, our experiences as consumers were already changing our understanding and expectations of how digital technology can be integrated into and help our daily lives. Here's the next step forward.
Read our content here.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

USA: Chattanooga offers free internet access to low-income families

More than 28,500 students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches will be able to access free high-speed internet for at least 10 years through a pandemic response initiative by the City of Chattanooga, Hamilton County Schools and municipal utility EPB. The HCS EdConnect initiative mobilises the city’s fibre optic network, which has made 1 gigabit internet available across the whole LGA since 2010. The local authorities also introduced 130 free Wi-Fi hotspots at 27 community locations to support online learning during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, EPB offered discounted internet to low-income households.
StateTech / Phil Goldstein

Related: Austin Housing Authority connects residents with digital literacy training, refurbished device and low-cost internet Global City Teams Challenge

England: North Yorkshire redistributes unwanted devices to keep community connected

North Yorkshire County Council’s ‘Reboot North Yorkshire’ initiative encourages donations of unwanted electronic devices to hubs around the county, where they will then be refurbished if needed and distributed to local people who lack digital access. The IT equipment provided can help children with online lessons or homework, older or socially isolated connect with others, or help families with no internet connection – with the added benefit of reducing e-waste.
Reboot North Yorkshire

Related: Government-issued netbooks spark creative trap and hip hop movements in Argentina Rest of World / Juan José Relmucao

New Zealand: Government programmes seek to expand internet and computer access

The Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa provides free and facilitated access to online services at public libraries across the country. The National Library partners with local councils and provides funding for software and hardware, which is allocated based on the municipality’s population. The New Zealand Government has published good practice evaluation processes for this and other digital inclusion initiatives, including the Computers from Home project, which ran from 2000 to 2017. The scheme provided families in under-served communities with digital skills training, a refurbished computer, 12-month subsidised internet and support for $50.
Digital.govt.nz / National Library of New Zealand
Related: Digital equity funding for Indiana sober living facilities to help residents apply for jobs and attend Zoom recovery sessions City of Bloomington

Europe: Coding lessons for digital inclusion

Coding for Inclusion is a project aimed at educating disadvantaged youths in STEM fields. The project scales up a successful initiative from Brussels, Capital Digital, where 15-18 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds and migrants/asylum seekers were taught how to educate their younger (12-14) peers to code and programme in a playful way, giving them coding skills and work experience in the tech sector. Coding for Inclusion brings the project to Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Italy and Spain on a larger scale and involves collaboration between multiple public and private actors.
All Digital

Related: Digital Connectors programme gives teenagers employable tech skills and voluntary leadership experience in North Carolina The Municipal / Amanda Demster

Policy & Resources

Research, analysis and examples of policy in practice from leading institutes and places like yours

Research & Publications

This GSMA report explores how mobile technology can drive digital inclusion for underserved communities in France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the USA, by considering support apps' efficacy and highlighting relevant policies.

The Nordic Welfare Centre provides an overview of how technology, digitisation and universal design can be used to make workplaces more accessible for people with disabilities.

This Institute for Public Policy Research report makes recommendations for how local authorities can address digital exclusion in the North East of England in areas including access, collaboration and learning.


A Digital Inclusion Innovation Programme for London councils by the London Office of Technology and Innovation includes digital exclusion mapping, device upcycling and a searchable international case study library.

The Good Things Foundation joined forces with Mastercard and Lloyds Bank to offer in-person financial and digital support in 20 UK centres post-pandemic. The charity has also published a digital inclusion roadmap for combined authorities and a briefing about digital exclusion and health inequalities.

Policy & Practice

The City and County of San Francisco created a Digital Equity Playbook to help stakeholders understand and respond to the digital needs of vulnerable communities. San Francisco also won a 2019 national award for connecting 1,500 households in affordable housing with free, high-speed internet.

A new Digital Equity Framework by the City of Casey in south-east Melbourne, Australia, identifies the benefits and challenges of being online for different at-risk groups, reported during extensive community engagement, and sets out planned actions in response.

Cornwall Council published a Digital Inclusion Strategy in 2019, at a time when an estimated 13% of residents in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had not used the internet. Last week, the council launched an initiative to lend laptops and tablets to people experiencing homelessness.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley but with 95,000 residents lacking broadband access, the City of San José has established a 10-year, $24 million Digital Inclusion Partnership. Digital inclusion initiatives include a pilot using blockchain to subsidise internet costs for low-income households and a free English and Spanish tech support helpline.

Interested in more LGIU Global Local content?

Open for impact: Local government and the open data economy

This briefing introduces the concept of open government data and highlights considerations for local governments who are seeking to participate in the data value chain, with a focus on Australian local government. 
Read this brand new briefing here.

Online Training: Equality and Inclusive Leadership in Local Government

2021 requires a re-commitment from local authorities’ leaders and managers to make a significant shift in stepping up to practice inclusive leadership as part of everyday work. These two online workshops provide an introduction to equality diversity and inclusive leadership practices.
Find out more and sign up here.

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we're focusing on the challenges posed by misinformation and how local authorities can mitigate its impact online and offline. In two weeks' time, we'll highlight innovative initiatives to improve access to library services before, during and after the pandemic.

If you would like to share your story, you can fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org. Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. We tweet from @GlobalLocalLGIU.

Want more content? Visit our website to access our Global Local briefings, blogs, podcast and more.

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