Client: London Borough of Barnet / July 2020-Sept 2021
It’s hard to imagine life without access to the internet. The capacity to access, use, share and create information and knowledge online was recognised by the UN as a human right in 2016, in recognition of its importance in improving quality of life and sustainable development. The Covid pandemic, which exposed many inequalities, also demonstrated how hard it was to survive this kind of major crisis for those who were digitally excluded. It also demonstrated that those without access to internet and online services, or without electronic devices to work and learn, were often the same groups already facing the biggest challenges in other aspects of their lives.
After the first UK Covid lockdown, London’s Barnet Council recognised the critical enabling role it could play in increasing digital inclusion. In order to support better internet access for residents living in social housing blocks, Barnet asked Inner Circle’s digital expert to join forces with it and council teams from Harrow and Hounslow to develop a borough-wide wayleave framework, which would help to extend and monitor fibre broadband rollout to councils’ social housing stock.
While wayleave templates are widely used in the public sector, this new approach to developing the framework allowed the Council to maximise the social value benefits – such as free and subsidised connection, training and job opportunities with the broadband providers. In this way, the agreement created a true partnership between the Council and the infrastructure providers, so that the real focus was always the residents, and their needs.
Tackling digital exclusion is about so much more than establishing digital connectivity. To achieve real inclusion, people need devices and an understanding of how to use them. Increasing digital access and digital knowledge together can have a significant effect on people’s lives and their ability to flourish and be happy and productive.
- Developed in six months a borough-wide wayleave framework
- Unlocked over £10 million worth digital infrastructure investment in Barnet
- Connected the first Barnet residents to the internet eight months after the start of the project.
- Supported effective partnership among different stakeholders – such as council officers, community organisations, fibre broadband providers – by aligning everyone’s actions to a central goal of reducing digital exclusion.