Framework for delivering inclusion

Why is this important?

Digital Inclusion is a key priority and is identified within the district Plan as a key component of achieving Outcome 4 - Safe, sustainable and inclusive communities. Digital Inclusion is defined here in three parts:

  • access to a device,
  • an affordable and adequate digital connection and
  • having the basic digital skills to use them

Digital exclusion is often part of complex challenges including poor literacy and English language skills, disability, ill health and poverty. The most excluded are also the biggest users of government services, however are the least likely to be able to access them online.

COVID-19 pandemic has only laid bare the inequalities within the district and further exposed the impact of the digital divide on people’s livelihoods and health and wellbeing. Data poverty, or the affordability of broadband or mobile access in particular is a real challenge.

What is our ambition?

No citizens of Bradford District will be excluded from having access to digital devices, adequate affordable connectivity and the necessary skills to use them to improve their livelihoods.

Where are we now?

A baseline review of current digital inclusion activity within the district has been carried out. Whilst there are many activities, the general view is this could do with a more co-ordinated approach with renewed governance.

The focus during COVID-19 has been primarily on addressing access to devices (laptops, tablets) and digital connectivity. A large amount of work is also ongoing in communities operating independently to provide digital technologies for fellow residents and businesses. This has taken a variety of forms across numerous organisations including the distribution of new tablets and laptops, reconditioned equipment donations and the issuing of 4G mobile dongles, SIM cards, Wi-Fi and other options.

The Council’s Neighbourhood team are part of a local multi-partnership working group to support the needs of vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers with digital devices and internet access. This includes a needs assessment and estimated costs. In a separate piece of work, the Neighbourhoods team and voluntary sector partners are seeking to assess the digital inclusion needs of the Roma community in the district. Bradford also has a number of voluntary schemes supporting inclusion through local businesses, charities and outreach services across the district.

A number of schemes are currently in operation across the district through the Charity and Voluntary sector. These are operating through a district arrangement working in collaboration with colleagues in Neighbourhoods, Adult Social Care and Economic Development. For example, charities such as Solidaritech are repurposing laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones, for asylum seekers and have negotiated bulk orders of “Pay-As-You-Go” three-month internet access from O2 to distribute to local refugees support groups.

In addition to the above, a national roll out of devices from the DfE, combined with Council funds, supported children to access devices and internet access where they had a social worker. This scheme began in June 2020 and has allocated over 3,000 devices. Our innovative approach includes working with local partners to map and connect both need and supply. This is a precursor to the development of a community application and our aspiration for the 15 minute digital neighbourhood over and above GIS. This work is on-going.

What are we going to do?

A review of best practice was carried out to identify the core capabilities required to ensure

a successful approach to digital inclusion. The following capabilities have been identified:

Governance Framework for Delivery

We have renewed a Bradford wide governance framework for delivery to look at co-ordinating and co-investing in digital inclusion activities across the district.

We appointed a dedicated resource to programme manage and co-ordinate activity and provide capacity-building support to VCSE organisations and deliver tailored digital inclusion support at a local level.

To ensure the insight and intelligence is readily available to inform priority targets and actions, we are in the process of:

  • Mapping on to the Council’s GIS data such as Free School Meals, Pupil Premium, other social-economic demographic data.
  • Contact Telcos on usage data and other insights on data poverty to map. Cross reference data and establish priority targets and specific local challenges not yet catered for.
  • Plot tailored delivery for each area taking into account the specific needs identified through the mapping work and highlighting the potential for cross-district collaboration.
  • Agree a common framework to measure the impact that Digital Inclusion support has on residents, communities and organisations.

Establish Inclusion Champions Network Scheme and Community Programmes

  • Build networks and partnerships to share best practice, improve signposting and co-ordinate activity to optimise impact and empower an ecosystem approach.
  • Create meaningful relationships with VCSE organisations to engage and deliver sustainable support to target resident groups.
  • Build capacity for community-based organisations by training staff and/or volunteers as Digital Champions. From this basis, community organisations can then support residents to access digital networks and services, particularly learning and information portals.
  • Develop an approach for engaging communities in digital inclusion, with Schools, Colleges, Community Groups, Social Housing, local businesses, NHS Organisations and GP Practices
  • Mapping of existing digital inclusion activities. Complete the mapping of activity around the district to provide a district wide view of all activity to ensure better co-ordination and building relationships

Subsidy Schemes for connectivity and skills

  • Devices – develop a targeted plan for Bradford, supporting VCS to register and benefit from the free data and device banks that they can provide to individuals in their communities.
  • Digital Inclusion Programme Manager will ensure a strategic approach working with a range of stakeholders, including VCS organisations, across the district and nationally, maximising on the opportunities for the people of Bradford
  • An effective process is in place to support voluntary groups in accessing funding and donations and allocations are matched to priority targets.
  • Basic Skills Development – Enable target resident groups have the necessary skills to use digital devices and services through Learn My Way centres, Libraries, Colleges, VCS, Digital ambassadors, National skills and resources from Corporates. Link into the Digital Skills Plan and Digital Makers Programme initiative where appropriate.
  • Connectivity – Facilitate target resident groups have adequate and affordable connectivity to internet with the work being carried out under Theme 1.
  • Ensure future procurement utilise the Government’s Social Value TOM framework which seeks to enhance social value, particularly into social housing estates with poor connectivity.
  • Explore targeted expansion of free Wi-Fi into community centres where necessary.

We have a legacy of working together as a district and the existing Wellbeing Board Governance structure offers an obvious platform and strength to tackle our ambitions in this area with leaders across key stakeholders represented. A Digital Inclusion Board is now formed, chaired by a senior officer from the Council and reports into the Wellbeing Board as its sponsor board with a standing item on the agenda.

The Digital Inclusion Board membership includes a number of cross-portfolio officers from the Council together with key stakeholder partners from Health, Voluntary, Social Enterprise and private sectors. These actions together will form the basis of an effective continuous programme with the right focus to ensure none of our citizens are digitally excluded

5 years on

What does ‘good’ look like?

  1. The well-established Governance Framework is effective and coordinated to respond to organisations and citizens in need of support
  2. All target priority areas and communities in terms of geography and demographics are now digitally included
  3. Necessary capacity is in place in communities through access to equipment, connectivity, funding, training and other interventions
  4. We have successfully secured year on year grants and private sector investment to tackle inclusion priorities across the district