A genuine understanding of what it’s like to live with digital poverty – this is how judges described Digital Poverty Award winners Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, at last night’s Digital Leaders Impact Awards.

Presenting the first award of the night, I was thrilled to see three of the DPA’s Community Board members – We Are Digital (with Lloyds Banking Group) and Currys – alongside the Midlands based winners, showcasing the work that organisations are doing to tackle digital poverty across different types of communities, and combatting different sides of digital poverty with their work.

The Midlands team were able to talk about their work to support patients in their area by tackling digital inequalities, with work stretching across the determinants of digital poverty through provide device loans, connectivity and skills, linking provision to the requirements of their service users, and ensuring that digital experiences are tied into the health needs of patients.  From remote monitoring and services through to digital entertainment for in-patients, the work has been thoroughly designed to ensure the best possible outcomes from people benefiting from the scheme – with diverse needs represented and considered.  As we see more and more NHS support moving online, from econsult to virtual wards, from my perspective it’s vital that we are able to showcase this type of brilliant work, which should inspire healthcare providers across the UK to look at how they can build this type of provision and approach into their own strategies facing forward.

There was also a shout out for finalists Currys’ Tech4Families scheme, run with the DPA, as an initiative to provide families of school aged children with access to devices, connectivity and resources to support them to get online, particularly with an eye to children who are often trying to complete essay-based homework requirements without access to a suitable device (or any device, in many cases).  And to the other finalists for that aware – We Are Digital, with Matt Adam joining a panel session to explain the one to one training they have been able to run with Lloyds Banking Group, enabling people of all ages to contact them and learn how to use devices and online services in a safe and consistent way.  Matt explained their social enterprise based model, combining “profit and purpose” to tackle a societal issue as big as digital poverty.  Seeing corporates – from FTSE companies to SMEs – taking a focus on tackling digital poverty is exactly what we need.  The DPA looks to all sectors to take a role in tackling digital exclusion, and I hope that this inspires more companies to get involved and consider how they, too, can be a part of this work.

I was also delighted to be invited by Digital Leaders to judge two of the other categories on the night, and throughout the evening a wide range of charities, corporates and government agencies were recognised as finalists and winners, all of whom using technology to create social good and solve problems.  These ranged from Cognassist – tackling how digital services can take account of neurodiversity across the population, through to Inclutech.co who provide icon based access to emergency support for those who are non-verbal, or for those at risk of abuse, and therefore are unable to engage with traditional telephone based access to emergency services, and many more organisations doing terrific work to give people the support they need through digital tools.  We were also delighted to see Community Board members Internet Matters recognised for their Digital Matters programme, helping children and families stay safe online.

Whilst it’s not possible to namecheck all of the great work right here, you can visit https://www.impact-awards.co.uk/finalists to read more about their work.  A massive thank you to Digital Leaders – also part of the DPA Community Board – for hosting such a special evening at MediaCityUK in Salford.  Looking at the positive impact of technology just reminds us of how important it is to ensure that everyone has the access they need to get online, in a way that works for them how, when and where they need it.  And it’s vital that we celebrate the achievements of those working hard to make that a reality, so congratulations!

Author: Elizabeth Anderson, Chief Operating Officer at the Digital Poverty Alliance