Digital poverty is a growing problem in the United Kingdom that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed.
Digital poverty refers to the lack of access to IT infrastructure such as laptops, smartphones and internet, while digital exclusion refers to low or non-existent levels of digital literacy. Digital poverty and exclusion are becoming increasingly important in order to address social justice in the UK.
As the government moves to self-serve channels, significant numbers of people who are unable to move online or who are not IT-literate may be dissuaded from using online Government services or be able to use them effectively. This applies to people seeking employment, those seeking to improve their skills and training, and people in receipt of welfare support. The widening digital divide has also been shown to be a contributing factor to children’s school attainments and prospects for the future.
Many SVP groups have already identified the issue of digital poverty as one of the most pressing concerns to addressed in order to tackle social injustice. Several of our Mini Vinnies and young adult groups have raised the alarm of the risk of many pupils being left behind because of lack of access to digital equipment or lack of knowledge of how to use it.
Our social policy work in this area aims to help Government and Local Authorities identify which children are in digital poverty, amongst other things. We work closely with our groups across England and Wales to gather information, case studies, and trends, which we use to campaign for reform in this area.