Businesses across the North of England are joining forces in a campaign to help disadvantaged households get online.
BusinessLive and titles across our parent company Reach plc are backing the Cash for Connectivity appeal which hopes to raise £1.2m to help provide free internet to 100,000 disadvantaged households.
Young children are being denied their basic right to education because they cannot access online learning at home during lockdown.
The appeal is part of the Laptops for Kids campaign, launched by technology entrepreneur David Richards and supported by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and a growing number of newspapers, websites, businesses and local authorities.
Cash for Connectivity will fund the purchase of dongles – inexpensive hardware to connect laptops and up to five other devices per household to the internet.
Data software company WANDisco is jointly headquartered in Sheffield and Silicon Valley, and also has a base in Newcastle. Its founder and CEO David Richards said: “This is a quick and inexpensive fix to an urgent social problem and we encourage readers to donate.
“Connectivity is as important as water and should be freely available to those in need. Together we can help end the data drought in the North of England.”
The Laptops for Kids campaign launched in Sheffield in September and is scaling up across the North with its proven method of sourcing, securely erasing and distributing devices to schools, according to need.
Other partners include Partners include Blancco plc, the global leader in certified data erasure, the non-political Northern Powerhouse Partnership, and Twinkl, the Yorkshire-based online educational publisher.
Nigel Watson, group information services director at Northumbrian Water said: “We are incredibly proud to be part of the Laptops for Kids campaign, which has so far seen over 700 devices donated to children in our region.
“By collaborating and innovating together, we managed to provide valuable resources to youngsters across the North East. However, without reliable connectivity to the internet, there is a limitation on how they can be used.
“Without connectivity, home-schooling children are at a huge disadvantage.
“The Cash for Connectivity campaign is the vital next step for our children to continue their remote education.”
Robert Forrester, chief executive of North East-based Vertu Motors plc, said: “This campaign is vitally important.
“Education is the cornerstone of our country and we must ensure that all children have the same opportunities to learn while schools are closed. This means having access to laptops and digital equipment to support virtual learning and home schooling.
“Inequality now will lead to inequality in later life and we must do what we can to help. Well done to the Journal and its publishers for leading the way and we are delighted to have the opportunity to donate some equipment.”
Other businesses backing the campaign range from corporate giants Google UK, DLA Piper to Sunderland AFC and Newcastle FC through to the Port of Tyne to Pontefract-based RV RUGG Wire Fabrication.
It’s easy to think everyone has access to superfast broadband. This isn’t the case. Many households rely on one mobile phone internet bundle, with everything else on Sim-only deals. This keeps costs down. Data isn’t always unlimited.
With the rise in home-schooling, video calling, which is data intensive, has become the norm.
As well as facing the issue of not having laptops, many households might receive kit from schools, the government, or charities – but if there’s only one device in the house which provides the actual internet connectivity then suddenly three children trying to home-school becomes a problem.
Homes are not fibre-connected offices able to support hundreds of people working at once.
This is why we need Cash For Connectivity to help ensure these dongles are delivered to ensure those who need to keep home-schooling into February, or beyond, can do so.
Staying home means staying safe and it should also mean staying connected.
With more than 2.6million users across the North of England, InYourArea.co.uk is urging its users to help others in their community in support of the campaign.
Editor-in-chief and audience and content director for Reach PLC’s regional titles, Ed Walker, said: “Both InYourArea and our regional titles across the North of England are all about connecting our communities.
“Our journalists have been inundated by messages from those struggling with homeschooling, and many of us feel that pressure too with children at home at the moment.
“Not having a consistent and reliable connection means the learning chances of those who need it most in communities across the North is being hit by buffering or sometimes having no connection at all.
“I am proud to lead InYourArea and Reach’s regional titles across the North in uniting to urge our readers both in print and online to help us to make a real difference, and quickly, to many.”
To donate, please visit www.business-live.co.uk/c4c