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Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales

Hamish Laing, Cath Fallon and Sara Woollatt introduce the Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales

Professor Hamish Laing
Chair, Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales
Professor of Enhanced Innovation, Engagement and Outcomes, Swansea University

The challenge to help everyone in Wales be digitally included is not new, but the pandemic has shone a powerful light on the inequalities that still exist in our communities. There has never been a more important time to act to close the gap between those who are included in the digital world and those who are not.

For example, the rapid acceleration of digital ways of delivering health and care with video consultations and portals replacing many traditional face–to–face appointments with GPs, hospital specialists and community care teams has brought many benefits for citizens and potential solutions and efficiencies for health and care services, but only for those who are able to access these platforms and services. The dramatic shift from the traditional shop towards online delivery has been a lifeline for those who are digitally confident but has further isolated those who are not.

Fixing this cannot be left to one organisation or even to Government: it needs to be everyone’s business. That’s why I am delighted to chair the Digital Inclusion Alliance for Wales, which brings together a diverse group of public, private and third sector organisations, large and small, who have a shared ambition to play their part in this vitally important challenge for modern society. If your organisation has great ideas or experience in improving digital inclusion or just wants to learn what others are doing, why not join with us? We would love to hear from you!

Cath Fallon
Vice Chair, Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales
Head of Enterprise and Community Animation, Monmouthshire County Council

Like many rural counties of Wales, Monmouthshire is beautiful however its rurality and topography don’t lend themselves well to the deployment of digital infrastructure.  As a result, Monmouthshire has the highest digital deprivation rate in the Cardiff Capital Region, with over 12% of our premises currently unable to access a decent broadband connection in comparison to only 3% in other neighbouring counties.

At a time in our lives when the mantra is ‘Stay home and Stay Safe’, the resulting increase and impact of on-line, digital activity has been phenomenal.  From a wider societal and economic perspective, there has been an unprecedented increase in home working, an acceleration of people doing on line shopping and wider digital social interactions with families and friends. All this has led to the amplified need for good quality digital infrastructure and connectivity, and it is this that drives our Monmouthshire passion to improve digital connectivity across the county and the principality.

Access to digital connectivity, technology and skills, are essential if we are to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity and nobody gets left behind in this clearly proven, digital society.  So if, like us, you are frustrated by a lack of access to digital connectivity, technology or skills then why not join us in the Digital Inclusion Alliance for Wales and help us make a difference.  Digital equality for all is everyone’s businesses no matter which organisation you represent, so come on, join us and help us make a difference not just to our lives but to those of our future generations.

Sara Woollatt
Engagement and Partnerships Officer, Digital Communities Wales
Co-ordinator, Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales

The Wales Co-operative Centre has been delivering Welsh Government’s digital inclusion programmes since 2005 and, over the years, the Centre’s digital inclusion team have helped thousands of people across Wales to benefit from access to the digital world.

The most recent round of Welsh Government funding resulted in the creation of a successor programme to Digital Communities Wales (DCW) – Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Wellbeing. This programme contained a new concept – the formation of The Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales.

This was in response to the recognition that achieving true digital inclusion for our nation is a mammoth task, requiring more resource and commitment than could be offered by one single programme of work.   It requires commitment and input from people with the ability to influence strategy and policy and to champion the cause at all levels across all sectors.  Digital is now pervasive in all aspects of our lives and for that reason, digital inclusion is everyone’s business.

This idea of an Alliance of change makers who would bring the digital inclusion agenda into boardrooms and offices across Wales took on even more importance as the events of the 2020 pandemic highlighted to everyone something we in the Alliance and DCW already knew – the negative impact digital exclusion can have on individuals.  In a time when services and processes are being digitally transformed at an astounding pace, we cannot leave people behind. We must ensure that every programme of digital transformation is matched by a coordinated programme of digital inclusion.

The members of the DIAW are working together to ensure that this happens – so come and join us and be a part of this exciting initiative that inspires digital inclusion action and works to ensure that everyone in Wales has the opportunity to engage with the digital world in a way that benefits them.

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