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Covid and the Digital Divide | Holding NI Ministers to Account

Digital Rights  |  Thu Mar 18 2021

Covid and the digital divide

Leading figures including Scotland's children's commissioner called for a more consistent approach to digital exclusion after a press investigation in Scotland showed that while government support reached some digitally excluded children during lockdown, many others fell through the cracks.

Holding NI Ministers to account

Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced a £2.9m allocation to address digital exclusion amongst further education students. This will go to one-off payments of £60 each per eligible student (criteria were not published) and will purchase 500 devices. It is unclear what will be done with the rest of the funding.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Conor Murphy recognised before the NI Assembly that there are "significant groups of people who remain excluded because of their socio-economic status and a lack of digital skills" though he did not estimate how many. He referred to longstanding programmes through Libraries NI and others, meant to be "targeted at the harder-to-reach, digitally excluded sections of the population, such as older people, people with disabilities, disadvantaged communities, rural communities and the long-term unemployed". He noted that permanently closing the digital gap would have "genuine, measurable benefits for individuals, the broader community, businesses and government".

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