Marion Chris and Jacq discussing the digital divide
Marion Chris and Jacq discussing the digital divide

On Monday 8 March, we are celebrating International Women’s Day 2021.  Unlike previous years we are having to hold our range of events online. We start the day at 10am working in partnership with Lewisham Pensioners Forum (LPF) to the launch our campaign to ensure affordable broadband and support is available to help elders access the internet and digital services.

The campaign to improve broadband and internet access for older women highlights the digital divide and COVID-19 has really underlined the importance of having access to the internet and being able to get online. Even prior to the pandemic, the internet has become a much bigger part of our everyday lives over the last decade and it’s a lot harder to access the information and resources we need without it.

We know how much of a risk loneliness and isolation can be during lockdown and those who are digitally excluded are particularly hard to reach. Getting our older residents online means they can stay in contact with their friends and families and access vital services like shopping, banking and booking GP appointments more easily.

The Labour Party are campaigning to ensure the cost of broadband is affordable for everyone. We need to encourage providers to offer more affordable broadband packages for our older residents, to make it easier for them to access the internet and participate online.

Having an internet connection in the home can make such a transformative difference to the lives of our older residents, particularly as technology improves. It means they can use a telecare service to get help and stay independent, they can access online resources like our digital libraries and attend Zoom classes.

We are supporting residents with the technology to get online, whether that’s a computer, a tablet or a smartphone. Catbytes is a fantastic local scheme that is helping Lewisham residents get online by loaning out laptops and providing technical support. Lewisham Council providing ‘techy tea parties’ to share the knowledge and help get more older people confident using the internet and being a ‘digital citizen’.

I am delighted that the Mayor of London has launched a digital exclusion taskforce aimed at reducing the capital’s digital divide. The taskforce, which includes Mayor Sadiq Khan, London councils and charity London Grid for Learning (LGfL), is aimed at tackling digital exclusion in London, increasing people’s digital skills and providing disadvantaged people with refurbished devices.

Cllr Chris Best, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care 

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