It has been an overwhelming, exhausting but wholly positive experience working with a small team of brilliant colleagues to set up the Digital Poverty Alliance.
We shared and shaped our initial thinking through three brilliant roundtables which we co-hosted with IET, RSA and Ofcom. These roundtables included more than 80 organisations and individuals including BBC News, DfE, Llloyds Banking Group, NAHT, Intel, Nominet, DCMS, Ofcom, BCS, Institute for Global Change, Power To Connect, Dixons Carphone and many others. All of their input and that of many other discussions and roundtables helped set our ambitions and ensured we started as we meant to carry on by being led and informed by the community.
An early decision for us was around the degree to which we would be involved in direct delivery vs. working on the bigger picture. I have spent much of my life working as much at a grass roots level as I can as, for me, it is hugely rewarding to be able to see the link directly between activity and investment and real, tangible and positive impact on the ground. Having worked in larger charities I was struck by how difficult that can be to see sometimes. We have therefore opted to be both – responding immediately where we can but also developing a National Delivery Plan to ensure that everyone can benefit from access to amazing technology and as quickly and effectively as possible.
Dixons Carphone and the Institution of Engineering & Technology have given us the opportunity and freedom to design the right structure and approach for the DPA. This meant that the team has been able to bring all of our combined years’ of experience to bear on this and our approach can be summed up as:
We are aiming:
- To be community-led
- To have a holistic, not a single-solution, approach
- To aggregate not duplicate
- To own little and inspire much
- To be action-focused
We want to be agile and responsive and thoughtful. We want to be evidence-led and work through partners. We know there are some fantastic people and organisations out there who are as engaged as us with enabling people everywhere to participate in and benefit from the digital world. But we also know that much of that is not joined up and there are gaps too. So what could we do that would be most helpful?
One key aspect of our response has involved setting up the DPA Community Board. Rather than individual organisations, we are bringing together aggregators who are able to speak, in turn, on behalf of a wide number of organisations and individuals from a specific sector or interest. This will involve government departments such as DfE, DCMS and DWP alongside the NHS, Finance, Housing, Retail, Small Business and devolved governments too.
Some, I know, are concerned that we risk becoming a ‘talking shop’ and my response to that is that we are definitely not aiming to be that but we are a “listening shop”. How could we possibly move ahead with our ambitions without talking and understanding? The issue of digital poverty is pervasive and divisive and disadvantages many millions of people in the UK and elsewhere. We will certainly be a place for talking but the DPA is very much in listening mode and then, most importantly, acting on what we hear. How many times have you read a really excellent paper on this subject but ends with a “We call on government to do the following………….”. We need solutions and action BUT we also need the right solutions and the right action.
We need collaboration, collective wisdom and sustained determination to respond and we are happy to play our role in helping to make that happen.
Whether you want to talk, listen or contribute in other ways I have just one request:
Come and join us – together we can end digital poverty……….once and for all.