Charity helps to fight digital exclusion during the pandemic

person holding phone

During these tough times, it is more important than ever that we stay in touch with the people that we love. Unfortunately, for most of the older generation who don’t have access to a smartphone, this has become a lot harder during the past couple of months.

According to the Centre for Ageing Better, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our ‘digital divide’, and this has affected people over the age of 55 the most. In 2019, there were about 4 million people living in the UK who had never used the internet, around 3.7 million of these people were aged 55 and over.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced more people online. At some points during the height of lockdown in England, most banks had closed their real life doors and were only open virtually meaning more people had no choice but to start online banking.

It has been harder than ever for people to catch up with their loved ones. Speaking solely over the phone does not do the job, so video calling has become a very popular method for grandparents to catch up with their families.

Elizabeth Ann, aged 86, recently acquired her first smartphone. She was struggling with not being able to speak to her family but her new phone has helped her massively.

“This is the only contact we have with families at the moment, you can use facetime and WhatsApp, it’s nice to be able to actually see them in a photograph, even if you’re not able to see them in person.”

To hear more about Elizabeths struggles before having a smartphone check out the full interview below.

There are many people who cannot afford to buy their own phone, or simply don’t know where to start when looking at smartphones. That’s where Hubbub come in. Their project ‘Community Calling’ works by rehoming unused smartphones.

Alongside the phone, recipients are also given 12-months free mobile data provided by O2 and access to free data skills training to help them get to grips with their new device.

Emily Watson, a Creative Partner at Hubbub has been leading the project.

“The public donate their old phones that they’re not using anymore, there are about 28 million unused smartphones in people’s homes in the UK at the moment so it’s a real issue.”

“A phone is a gateway to so many things… it can help you get a job, it can help you further your eductaion, it can help you connect with loved ones which is so so important right now.”

“In Leeds, we’re hoping to distribute 2000 phones with the help of the public and local businesses. We’re working very closely with Leeds Council and with the West Yorkshire Combined Authorities to help identify people that need the devices.”

The full interviews from both Emily and Elizabeth Ann can be found here.

Hubbub has already re-homed almost 3000 smartphones through this scheme. However, they aim to re-home at least 10,000 phones. For more information or if you want to help out with your own phone check out the Hubbub website.

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