From education to employment

Greater Manchester celebrates collaborative impact in tackling digital exclusion

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The first annual Social Impact Report of Greater Manchester’s digital inclusion work demonstrates the value of collaboration, with the report outlining how this work has been a catalyst for multiple programmes and initiatives to help tackle digital exclusion across the region.

The report summarises the work taking place across Greater Manchester to fix the digital divide, some being direct outputs of Greater Manchester’s Digital Inclusion Taskforce or the city-region’s Digital Inclusion Action Network.

Highlights include:

  1. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) working with all 10 local authorities on a regional approach, collaborating to ensure digital inclusion is embedded within local communities and addressing local need
  2. Nine out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs offer targeted digital inclusion and accessibility support for disabled people
  3. 250 national and local cross sector organisations are members of the regional Digital Inclusion Taskforce leading Greater Manchester’s response to fix the digital divide

As many as 1.2m residents in Greater Manchester could be excluded in some way from accessing the benefits digital brings. A lack of digital access and skills can have huge negative impact on a person’s life, leading to increased loneliness and social isolation, less access to jobs and education, which both in turn are associated with poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy and financial exclusion.

In October 2020 the Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Agenda was launched, with a bold ambition to make Greater Manchester a 100% digitally enabled city-region. A Digital Inclusion Taskforce and Digital Inclusion Action Network were set up as part of the agenda to bring together organisations from across Greater Manchester to tackle the issue.

The taskforce has over 250 members and brings together industry, the VCSE sector, public sector partners, local government, schools and health to fix the digital divide across Greater Manchester. The taskforce works in collaboration to focus and shape action to address the interrelated barriers to digital inclusion and the digital divide such as connectivity, accessibility, affordability, skills, motivation and confidence.

Following his re-election in May 2021, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham announced ambitions for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the skills, connectivity and technology to get online.

As part of his reinforced commitment to get residents online, Andy Burnham established a Digital Inclusion Action Network. The Digital Inclusion Action Network leads targeted action to combat digital exclusion with a specific focus on supporting under-25s, over-75s and disabled people in Greater Manchester.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said: 

“In Greater Manchester we want to build the standards for all residents and businesses to have the skills and ability to thrive, regardless of background or situation. We want to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over-75s and disabled people with the essential digital skills, connectivity and technology to get online, and we’re leading the way in achieving an ambition that we should all strive for across the nation.

“This new report gives great insight into the work being done to fix the digital divide across the city-region and the impact this is having on our people – people otherwise at risk of further social isolation, unequal access to employment opportunities and unable to access health services and financial support.”

Greater Manchester’s drive to fix the digital divide is not just a regional effort, and goes beyond the work summarised within this report. GMCA continues to work with other city-regions nationally, combined authorities, local authorities, industry, academia and the VCSE sector as a coalition voice to collaborate for sustainable change. This includes offering regional authority perspective on data poverty at the launch of the Data Poverty APPG’s State of the Nation report, with representatives from our local authorities and Greater Manchester Housing Providers Network in attendance. GMCA’s continuous commitment to empowering people to thrive and ensure public services work for all is at the heart of driving equity across the UK.

Find out more and download the Social Impact Report 2022: fixing the digital divide here.

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