Published On: 11th April 2022

The Access Foundation Pledges To Help Tackle the UK’s Digital Divide

The Access Foundation has approved grants for an initial £269,000 of funding to support projects across the UK to help tackle the digital divide.

Only 51% of UK households earning between £6000 to £10,000 had home internet access

According to the Social Mobility Commission, State of the Nation Report 2021* when the pandemic hit in March 2020, the poorest households were found to be excluded from the digital world. Only 51% of UK households earning between £6000 to £10,000 had home internet access, compared with 99% of households with an income of over £40,000.

The Access Foundation was set up in 2021 with a view to supporting organisations in the UK, Europe and APAC, who are focused on mitigating the digital divide through facilities and learning.

Piers McLeish, Trustee of The Access Foundation commented;

“It is a worrying situation that in an increasingly digital society so many people are being left behind. Digital access and skills are crucial to enable people to fully engage in today’s online world. It’s a key objective of The Access Foundation to address digital inequalities and help ensure that people from all backgrounds have the same opportunities regardless of their postcode and background. As such, we have prioritised our initial grant funding to support projects that are really making a difference and bridging the digital divide across the UK.”

The Access Foundation has pledged £120,000 to support an annual intake of scholarship students to Loughborough University

In the East Midlands, The Access Foundation has pledged £120,000 to support an annual intake of scholarship students to Loughborough University for the next three years. The scholarships will be for students who wish to study courses in Computer Science and IT Management for Business.

Over several decades, Loughborough University has successfully inspired and opened the door to higher education for thousands of young people from the most challenging backgrounds and under-privileged areas across the UK.

Commenting on the grant, Professor Rachel Thomson, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience at Loughborough University said;

“This grant will enable us to award scholarships to a cohort of 12 students in total, over four years, to study computer science undergraduate programmes – we are very grateful to the Access Foundation for their support in this important area. We are very aware that some students in higher education can face inequalities from early in life which result in barriers and challenges in accessing education. Our scholarship programme ensures that academic ability, not their financial capacity, is the reason a student can attend Loughborough and make the most of the opportunities here.”

In the West Midlands, the foundation will donate another £120,000 to support a similar programme at Aston University. Scholarships will be made available for students who wish to study courses in Computer Science, Computer Science with Business, and Cybersecurity.

Professor Jo Lumsden, head of department for computer science at Aston University said;

“We are absolutely delighted to receive this grant from the Access Foundation. At Aston University, we are committed to providing opportunities to the most talented students to help them succeed in the exciting field of Computer Science and it is important to us that we break down access barriers to such success, especially those imposed by finance. The award from the Access Foundation will allow more students to enroll and learn with us; it will have such a profound impact on many young lives and, by extension, those around them. We look forward to working with the Access Foundation on this life-changing scholarship programme.”

In Hartlepool, The Access Foundation has approved a grant of £28,985 to fund the creation of a digital suite within The Big League CIC, a community interest company. The suite will be for people to make use of the internet and equipment that they would otherwise not be able to access.

The suite will be staffed with trained helpers to support disadvantaged and vulnerable people in completing online activities which they would not be able to do on their own.

The organisation was set up with aims to assist and support the communities of Hartlepool to improve their lives, with a particular focus on creating opportunities for education, training and employment. The organisation’s primary aim is to reduce poverty and improve health and well-being in some of the town’s poorest wards and to build social cohesion.
Commenting on receiving the grant, Sam Hunter at The Big League CIC said;

“This grant is so important to us as it means we can make a key and measurable difference in ‘digital poverty’ that is so prevalent in our town. Sometimes this poverty isn’t given as much recognition as say food or fuel poverty, but the effects can be really devastating on how people can access their digital needs. We believe everyone should have fair opportunities, and this will really bridge the gap of the ‘digital divide’ improving poverty of opportunity, and boost their aspirations and ability to engage.”

For more information, read about the Access Foundation here.