Great Britain

Islington and Hackney community groups call on Shoreditch big tech to help heal digital divide

Companies like Amazon, with UK offices in Shoreditch are being called on to donate or fund laptops for local people. Picture: Doug Peters/PA.

Companies like Amazon, with UK offices in Shoreditch are being called on to donate or fund laptops for local people. Picture: Doug Peters/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Shoreditch tech companies are being urged to help during the coronavirus pandemic by donating laptops for local people.

Residents say the night-time economy is shifting away from Old Street Roundabout towards areas like Shoreditch High Street, edging ever closer to residential areas in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Holly ChantResidents say the night-time economy is shifting away from Old Street Roundabout towards areas like Shoreditch High Street, edging ever closer to residential areas in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Holly Chant

On Black Friday (November 27), local schools, faith and community groups launched the Shoreditch 300 challenge.

READ MORE: Locals urged to donate laptops for Hackney pupils

The campaign asks Amazon and other tech companies to donate or fund laptops and internet access for 300 local people in need.

Hackney and Islington Citizens, a branch of the community organising charity Citizens UK, has already fundraised and distributed over 78 laptops across the two boroughs since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown.

The group published a video letter on LinkedIn calling on tech leaders from companies with UK offices in Shoreditch, like Amazon, Inmarsat, Microsoft Reactor and Box and Plaid to take up the challenge.

Rev Graham Hunter, Hackney & Islington Citizens and vicar at St John’s Church in Hoxton, said: “It’s been inspiring to see groups of neighbours forming mutual aid groups to provide practical support in our communities during this pandemic and the internet has helped us connect and support one another - so tech companies really are keeping our neighbourhoods going.

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“But there is still a digital divide.

“Some people are struggling with just 500mb of data a month because of the cost of home internet, and parents are having to choose between using laptops for their work or for their children’s education.

“We’re doing all we can, but we could do more with the help of our tech company neighbours.”

READ MORE: Hackney primary schools raise £10,000 in week for students without laptops

In August, broadband provider Community Fibre and research firm 3Gem polled 1,500 Londoners. 70 percent of East Londoners said their Internet usage had increased since Covid-19 hit and more than 40pc said they had, at some point, worried about not being able to pay their broadband bill.

Froi Legaspi, Community Organiser for Hackney & Islington Citizens, told the Gazette that one tech company, Box and Plaid, had already “immediately” reached out and he hopes other tech companies will connect with the group to support their Black Friday laptop appeal.

Froi added: “Education and work are important routes out of poverty. But the shift to digital has made them increasingly dependent on having reliable access to a laptop and internet.

“We’re seeing digital poverty as a growing problem in our communities, but it is often hidden out of sight.”

Find out more about Citizens UK by clicking here

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