As the countdown to the London mayoral election on 2 May continues, the spotlight is cast on a pivotal issue that transcends local politics: digital inclusion. The urgency of addressing this challenge is amplified by the Digital Poverty Alliance’s (DPA) compelling campaign to highlight and tackle the digital divide not just in London, but across the entire UK. With nearly 900,000 Londoners burdened by the cost of internet access and a further 1.3 million lacking the basic digital skills to access online services, the critical nature of this issue is undeniable[1]. These figures are a stark reminder that behind every statistic is a person at risk of being left behind in our fast-paced digital world.

In this context, the DPA’s national policy statement emerges not just as a set of recommendations but as a powerful call for systemic change. This appeal is directed at UK political parties and the government that will emerge post-election, urging them to prioritise the elimination of digital exclusion in their manifestos and policy planning. The DPA’s vision extends beyond simply ensuring basic online connectivity; it aims to empower every individual in the UK to access and benefit from essential services, spanning education, employment, healthcare, and welfare. The current pace of progress is alarmingly slow, with 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 5 children still caught in the grip of digital poverty.

The DPA has laid out clear, actionable recommendations:

Establish a Cross-Departmental Task Force: This task force will be charged with delivering and reporting on a comprehensive national strategy for digital inclusion, ensuring that efforts are unified across all areas of government.

Champion Immediate, Targeted Actions: To bridge the digital divide, there must be a commitment to immediate, focused initiatives. These should ensure fair and equitable access to crucial support and resources for all citizens, underscored by robust awareness campaigns and clear signposting.

The upcoming mayoral election is more than just a local political contest; it represents a significant opportunity to advance the conversation on digital inclusion. It offers a platform for candidates to demonstrate their commitment to a more equitable and inclusive London, echoing the DPA’s broader national agenda. The need for bold leadership and decisive action has never been more apparent.

Through such leadership and commitment at both the local and national levels, the DPA envisions a future where every person in the UK, irrespective of their background or circumstances, has not only the opportunity to participate in the digital age but also to thrive within it. The imperative for action is clear, and the time to act is now. The London mayoral election next month can serve as a catalyst for this change, marking the beginning of a new chapter where digital inclusion is placed firmly at the heart of London’s agenda – and, by extension, the national agenda – ensuring that no resident is left behind in our digital future.

[1] Lloyds UK Digital Consumer Index 2023