The Government have announced a funding call to run a project to help address the digital divide in response to Coronavirus.
£5 million from the European Social Fund (ESF) will be made available to address two of the main ‘access’ issues associated with digital exclusion, namely physical access to the internet and data poverty.
Data poverty can act as a barrier to creating a digitally inclusive due to the cost of data and the often unaffordable costs of home internet access.
Internet access in the home is only available through long-term broadband/data contracts, which are often unaffordable for those on lower incomes, and ‘pay as you go’ services often attract a ‘poverty premium’ in that they are more expensive per byte of data than would be the case through 12 month or 2-year contracts.
European Social Fund
The ESF invests in people, with a focus on improving employment and education opportunities across the European Union.
It also aims to improve the situation of the most vulnerable people at risk of poverty.
The ESF provision in the D2N2 region contributes to local growth by increasing labour market participation, promoting social inclusion, and developing the skills of the potential and existing workforce.
The short-term funding call will support projects across the country procuring and loaning an appropriate device, such as a tablet or laptop, and providing a three-month allowance of data, provided via a data dongle, to existing ESF participants, thus making the funding call a ‘bolt-on’ to existing ESF projects.
Activity will also include a small amount of set up support to enable users to understand the functionality and get online.
Projects can be funded at 100% ESF through the Covid-19 Response.
With no upper or lower financial limit being applied to applications, both smaller, locally-based organisations and large scale organisations can apply for funding where they have identified sufficient demand for provision.
Delivery of equipment, any initial set up support, and defrayal of all expenditure must be completed by 31 December 2020 by successful applicants.
The closing date for applications is the 30th of September and a more detailed explanation of the call is available on the Gov.UK website.
Interested parties can apply for funding via the ECLAIMS IT system.
Those without access to ECLAIMS IT should contact the Department of Work & Pensions.