Voluntary group ‘Lambeth TechAid’ is helping to get Lambeth online by delivering donated tech to those in need.
The group formed last March as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, when devices for children increased tenfold.
Their recent campaign, #Laptops4Learning in partnership with their patron Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, is aimed at providing schoolchildren with the technology they need to carry out homeschooling.
It is estimated that more than two million UK households in London don’t have access to the internet, and with the pandemic shutting schools and workplaces, these people are effectively forced offline.
Cat Smith, 30, volunteers in the management team at Lambeth TechAid, overseeing tech donations given by the public and working with the local community to distribute them.
She explained how technology is now a basic necessity, as people need it to access universal credit applications, complete online learning, order food online and even look up lockdown restrictions.
She said: “It’s shocking to see how much impact it has on families and individuals when they don’t have access to the online world. It really isolates them.
“We’ve heard cases of families having to choose between the food they’re going to eat and the data they’re going to buy for the kids to do their schoolwork.”
And having rolled out over 300 devices so far, Lambeth TechAid has already facilitated household access for many.
One source said: “Lambeth TechAid has brightened my children’s life. More people need to support this amazing work for Lambeth TechAid to reach out to families.”
As well as technology, the group also works with Lambeth Council to provide WiFi through MiFi devices, with library and café closures cutting people off from public internet access.
Whilst the government scheme to provide data to those in need will last this academic year, at the end of the summer term the same families will be left behind.
Smith is worried that this prominent issue will fall out of the mainstream focus again.
She added: “The digital divide is not the result of the pandemic, it is embedded, and we still need to do more to get people connected.”
And, with aims to double the number of devices distributed, rollout more MiFi devices and be a regular point of support, Lambeth TechAid is committed to helping those beyond the digital divide in 2021.
Featured image credit: Cat Smith