Drastic Effects of Digital Poverty


Lockdown has proved that lack of technology regulation has only created a deeper divide between those who are connected to the internet and those who are not.

Lack of access to technology and data is causing a massive dilemma for families who must choose between feeding their families or educating them.

About 110 parcels feeding over 250 people per week was the average number distributed to families at London’s busiest Foodbank pre-Lockdown conditions. Now, they are handing out five times the number of parcels. Hammersmith and Fulham’s Foodbanks’ chief executive and founder, Daphne Aitkens, explains “We’re doing these numbers every day five to six days a week.”

Laptops allocated by government

In May, Emma Hardy MP tweeted that she would be very interested in the number of laptops that have been issued to schools and pupils. She points out that the government has made a promise “to fund 200,000 laptops for children from the most challenging backgrounds yet over one million children do not have adequate access to an electronic device or internet access.” Her tweet received 50 replies from head teachers, many who chorused, “Let’s just say, ours can be counted on the fingers of no hands.”

The allocation numbers are dismal. “We were allocated 8, we have received none.” Another, “None issued from government yet, we have lent out about 60 from our supply.” Some became more critical of the government pointing out their promise was only lip service with no actual follow through or action since they came to power in 2010.

Chairs and desks in what looks like a school computer room. The spaces for the computer are empty.

Technology and music

Without technology Drake Music would not be able to empower disabled musicians or offer them opportunities to make music, access commissioning opportunities and perform in front of new, diverse and wider audiences.

By investing in accessible musical instruments, Drake Music has been able to remove barriers to music making for Disabled musicians of all ages. This allows them creative expression and choice in music making.

Accessibility is also about availability. Drake Music bridges the gap between musicians and makers, technologists, coders and developers to pioneer new accessible music technology and it is clear that technology is a vital resource within Disability Arts.

It has transformed learning and access in schools and could do so much more if only schools were properly equipped with the necessary kit for each and every single pupil.

No connection = isolation

Yet, Lockdown has devasted the lives of so many people who remain disconnected from the internet and without access to physical venues or spaces like schools or DMLab, then their opportunities and access to learning are significantly shut off.

Lack of technology and internet access in over 1.9 million households only shows the devastating effect this has on communities nationwide. Those with limited access to the internet like asylum seekers and refugees, elderly people and households living in poverty are the hardest hit because pay as you go tariffs are more expensive.

Without software and kit necessary to access the internet to be able to participate in learning, residencies, education or employment, then the number of people’s lack of access to those same opportunities is likely to go up.

Deregulation of technology

All of this can be blamed on the deregulation of technology. In March last year, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan pointed out that technology regulations need to evolve at the same rate as evolving technology to benefit both citizens and businesses. Khan explained that government leaders must do more “to work with tech businesses and leaders – to ensure that this revolution is not detrimental to our long-term progress.”

Khan says, “A failure to ensure that the UK’s economy and regulatory structures are prepared and relevant falls to government.”

Lockdown has only called attention to how the lack of regulation of technology has resulted in a stark divide between those who have benefited from technology and those who are punished because they cannot afford access to it.

Lockdown has forced thousands of people into isolation and without technology they have been totally shut off from society. Lockdown has demonstrated how the increase in internet use and the expectations from schools and organisations is unrealistic when governments have failed in their duty to provide necessary equipment and electronic devices to be able to access free internet access.

When Corbyn spoke of his commitment to providing free and available superfast broadband to all households, he was mocked.

The situation we find ourselves in only proves that Labour’s pledge during the lead up to the election to deliver free, superfast broadband to every house and business in the country was one step ahead of closing the poverty gap and could have ensured the actioning of access and equal opportunity.

Free and available broadband to all households would certainly result in more children and young people, including Disabled musicians who Drake Music work, with relishing equal opportunities to advance their education and music practice, employment and learning development, not just Lockdown, but also ongoing.