Digital Technology: Coronavirus

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department is taking to tackle the digital divide during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State

In March, the government agreed a set of voluntary commitments with telecommunications providers to support and protect vulnerable consumers and those who might become vulnerable as a result of Covid-19. This included a commitment to work with customers who are finding it difficult to pay their bills to ensure that they are treated fairly and appropriately supported. The Government also brokered a deal with providers which have allowed half a million NHS staff to benefit from better connectivity, and also ensured that a number of websites, including the NHS website, are zero-rated.

My Department has been promoting the DevicesDotNow campaign, which is working with community organisations to distribute devices to vulnerable adults and help them get online. The aim is to enable elderly and vulnerable people, particularly those to who are shielding, to communicate with the outside world and get access to vital services. Over 11,000 devices have been distributed by community partners. Futuredotnow are working with their founding partners, government and industry to continue to collect devices and distribute them to the local community organisations so they are able to reach the most vulnerable during this time.

In August 2020, government introduced an entitlement to fully funded digital qualifications which mirror the existing legal entitlements for English and maths. Adults with no or low digital skills will have full funding to undertake improved digital skills qualifications, based on new national standards for essential digital skills, up to Level 1.

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