Covid-19 has laid bare the true extent of digital exclusion amongst local residents and communities across the borough. Internal surveys of KLS’ members, at the beginning of the first lockdown, revealed a lack of devices, data, money, skills and confidence to fully access our ‘virtual’ community services; let alone other community services e.g. foodbanks, Covid food provision, Council services and GPs, pharmacies and other NHS support; or other services e.g. online shopping and banking. And so, the telephone, postal service and doorstep visits have been the norm for our members over the last 10 months. Cut off from the plethora of services and support they could have reached, if they’d been online, has led to a decline in health and wellbeing for many and an increase in mental health issues, isolation and loneliness.
And yet, what if we could transform local services to become truly digital, and for our members and other local residents to have the digital capacity and capability to access them? We would be better set up to support local residents in the digital space, helping them become more independent through future shocks and lockdowns, for many more years to come.
KLS’ starts to go digital but could do so much more
Over the last 10 months our community teams have been working to make KLS, our services and members, more digital. We’ve moved a lot of our services online e.g. Corona Homework Clubs, ESOL (English) classes online (see photo above), and Elders onto Zoom.
We’ve secured 156 laptops for refugee children to access their education online. This runs alongside KLS’ laptop lending library of 55 laptops (thanks to funding from National Lottery Community Fund).
We’ve started a pilot project through our Age Well programme (with local older people) to get them online and using Zoom. We hosted ‘12 Zooms of Christmas’ which was attended by 19 elders new to Zoom. This helped reduce their loneliness and isolation over Christmas, and upskilled local older residents. In recent weeks, these skills have led them to attend medical appointments on Zoom and online Art class by the National Gallery.
We’re making and sharing films on social media e.g. our Covid awareness film with Wandsworth Council and our Somali ESOL students.
We’ve supported local groups, particular Power to Connect, to get up and running, so that they can support more residents get the computer devices they need to become digital.
BUT all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. With further funding, staff and volunteers, we could achieve so much more to support local residents in Battersea lead more digital and independent lives.
KLS leading ‘Wandsworth Digital’ partnership
We realised we needed a strategic approach to tackling digital inclusion in the borough, so last summer we set up ‘Wandsworth Digital’. It’s a new partnership of 90+ local organisations working together to make Wandsworth the most digitally inclusive borough in London by 2024. It is made up of charities, community organisations, schools and colleges, independent funders, businesses and the Council.
We are working towards enabling our most excluded residents to have access to affordable devices and data; to have the skills and training to access local goods and services; and the support necessary to incorporate ‘digital’ into their everyday lives. Our strategy and further information about Wandsworth Digital can be found here.
To find out more about KLS’ digital work please contact Aaron Barbour on [email protected]
Please make a donation here.
To donate an old (but working) laptop or tablet please do so with our partner, Power to Connect here.