CityFibre has partnered with Donate Digital & Better ConNEcted in the North East to help provide access to essential online services and tackle digital inclusion.

According to recent research, the North East is one of the most digitally excluded regions in the UK, with over half of the population either completely offline or limited in access. With equipment needs and lack of computer skills cited as key barriers, this digital gap has become even more prevalent during the pandemic.

To support these groups, CityFibre has partnered with Donate Digital, an initiative launched to tackle digital poverty by upgrading and distributing donated IT equipment. They are supported by Better ConNEcted, a regional campaign that works to get more people online and raise awareness for digital inclusion in the region. The three organisations will work together to provide regular equipment donations and cover the costs of recycling and distribution.

The first batch of 20 devices has already been delivered to several organisations across the region. Newcastle charity, Success4All, will use their laptops to enable children in low-income families to do their schoolwork and socialise from home, while Age UK North Tyneside will use their devices to train older generations and help them build confidence in going online.

CityFibre has also donated to Middlesbrough-based Investing in People & Culture, which will use the laptops to support social inclusion amongst refugees, asylum seekers and other minority communities. Meanwhile, in Wearside, Sunderland People First will provide donated laptops to allow families with learning difficulties or autism to stay connected during the pandemic.

Currently, CityFibre is investing over £400 million to build new town and citywide full fibre networks across the North East that will make it possible for almost every household locally to access significantly faster and more reliable internet services. This forms part of its up to £4billion Digital Infrastructure Investment Programme, which aims to bring full fibre access within reach of 8 million homes by 2025.

Jason Legget, City Manager for CityFibre, said: “Digital exclusion is such a major challenge for people in our region, so helping those leading initiatives that enable access and build confidence is very important to us, as we work to bring future-proof connectivity within reach of entire communities.

“I encourage other businesses across the region to contribute old desktops or laptops to be recycled or make donations to help cover the costs of recycling and distribution.”

Busola Afolabi, Operations Manager, Success4All, said: “Computers and the internet aren’t going away. And the children who, through no fault of their own, aren’t able to gain access to a computer and the internet, to gain in confidence and develop proficiencies, will struggle to find a well-paid job. At Success4All, we want a future where a child’s ambitions are never limited by their circumstances.”

Yvonne Probert, Head of Charity Services at Age UK North Tyneside, added: “This pandemic has seen many older people become more isolated as they follow the government advice to stay home. However, as many services have gone digital and online there are some people who are being left behind as they don’t have the IT kit. This generous donation will enable us to get an older person online to help them access the digital world”.

A mother of four in Benwell, whose family received one of the donated laptops, added: “I have four children and only one computer, which my husband uses for work, and I needed another for my children for their schoolwork. With an extra computer there will be less arguments and the children can talk to their friends.”

Visit www.cityfibre.com to check your availability and register your interest in a full fibre broadband service.

Find out more about how you can support our regional and local charity and campaign partners: AgeUK North Tyneside, Better ConNEcted, Donate Digital, Investing in People and Culture, Success4All and Sunderland People First.

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