Launching a Digital Divide Fund to tackle digital disadvantage in the UK

Edge’s recent report The Impact of Covid-19 on Education highlighted (p. 11; pp. 22-23) the challenges created by the digital divide that left some young people unable to access online or blended learning. Here David Barker, Internet and Social Entrepreneur and Trustee of Livery Schools Link, explains how they are building momentum to address this issue.

As one of the UK’s first Internet entrepreneur’s in the early 1990’s, I’ve seen how the creation of funds by Venture Capitalists ensure the availability of funding to back the most exciting scale-ups to achieve growth and impact in the markets they are targeting.

Becoming a social entrepreneur in 2004, it has surprised me that a similar strategy has not been adopted at scale to tackle the serious social problems that exist in society around us. Too often good ideas to tackle social issues die through lack of funds to prototype, pilot and scale them up.

Digital disadvantage has been the plight of too many students in education for too long. Covid-19 has shone a light on the serious problem of digital disadvantage, and we must now seize the moment to tackle it. Not just as a popup response to Covid-19, that will disappear and lead us back to just talking about the problem still existing, but to create something that can scale and keep helping whilst we all work across government, business and civil society to deal with it properly.

Therefore, I am very excited to announce the launch of The Digital Divide Fund, setup and managed by the charity Livery Schools Link. The fund has been setup to become the major fund to tackle the digital divide, with the ability to attract donations from Livery Companies, Guilds, businesses, individuals, and other funds.

The fund will enable us to be social venture capitalists – working with schools on the ground to help them scale up their provision of devices and connections for their most disadvantaged students.

In the first two weeks we have already raised over £30,000 from individuals making donations personally on our Virgin Money Giving page, combined with donations from eleven Livery Companies: The Bakers, Barbers, Basketmakers, Builders Merchants,Carmen, Chartered Surveyors, Fishmongers, Innholders, Insurers, Pattenmakers and Nurses.

We see what we are doing as standing in the gap of the efforts of government, businesses, and other charities in this space. If we can all work together closely and learn from each other, we will find the magic bullet solution that can one day ensure every student in education has a connected device and that no-one is left behind in the digital age.

Find out more about Livery Schools Link and The Digital Divide Fund here, including how to donate: https://liveryschoolslink.org.uk/the-digital-divide/

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