30th January 2024
A pioneering project in Sunderland is enabling 22 Community Digital Health Hubs to be rolled out, connecting people and tackling digital challenges such as limited connectivity, lack of access to digital devices and skills, and the cost barriers associated with going online.
The project has secured a significant investment of £581,893 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), a central pillar of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.
The initiative aims to address digital exclusion by providing ‘doorstep’ digital services at the heart of communities to help people, from taking their first steps online to thriving in a digital world.
The project is a collaborative effort between the Council’s Smart City Joint Venture, a partnership with leading neutral host provider Boldyn Networks, British Esports Federation and 22 trusted community partners. The initiative forms part of a wider scheme, Links for Life, which was recently launched across Sunderland to empower communities to improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Each Hub has digital support packages to equip individuals with the skills and kit they need to get online and stay connected. Whether that’s accessing the internet or digital devices, providing a person to talk to or introducing individuals to the benefits of navigating the internet safely, such as saving money, booking appointments and reporting problems.
Ensuring the city’s most vulnerable people can stay connected, the investment has been used to provide:
Recent research indicates that 1 in 3 people in Sunderland have never been online or lack basic digital literacy skills. With an overarching aim of leaving no one and nowhere behind, Sunderland City Council is committed to improving digital inclusion for residents across the city.
Councillor Paul Stewart, Cabinet Secretary at Sunderland City Council, said: “Digital inclusion is essential for ensuring equal access to opportunities, services and information in today’s interconnected society.
“The new Digital Health Hubs will boost confidence and digital skills, empowering residents to access more and better opportunities, actively participate in the economy and engage meaningfully in their communities.”
Liz St Louis, Director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “From the very start of our Smart City journey, we envisioned a future where the digital divide is addressed collaboratively, ensuring that no one and nowhere is left behind. Our Digital Inclusion Plan is ensuring that everyone in Sunderland, regardless of their age or situation can reap the opportunities afforded by digital.
“The UKSPF investment and our partnership with Boldyn Networks has played a crucial role in providing the necessary infrastructure and digital inclusion services in the heart of Sunderland communities.”
Claire Venners, Director of Smart Places UK & Ireland at Boldyn Networks, added: “The Digital Health Hubs will make a difference to residents across Sunderland at a community level, leveraging the power of digital technology to enhance their health and wellbeing.
“Pivotal in promoting accessible, inclusive and technology-driven solutions for communities, the Digital Health Hubs aim to empower individuals across the city. By providing access to digital devices and the internet, we can ensure residents have the necessary tools and skills to make the most of digital health resources.”
To find your nearest Digital Health Hub and for more information, contact 07901 317 530, or visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/goonlinesunderland