On 6 November 2020, Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, answered a written question on what the Government is doing to close the digital divide.
Her response can be read in full below:
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
6 November 2020
Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to close the digital divide.
Baroness Barran: We continue to take steps to roll out gigabit capable broadband to every home and business in the UK, including a £5bn investment ensuring the whole of the UK benefits from a world class broadband infrastructure. Current gigabit coverage is over 27% of the UK and growing quickly, this is compared to under 5% just two years ago. Mobile coverage is also improving, thanks to our landmark Shared Rural Network agreement with the mobile network operators – the first of its kind in the world – 95% of the UK will have 4G coverage by the end of 2025.
The introduction of the Digital Entitlement means that adults with no or low digital skills can undertake new digital qualifications up to Level 1 free of charge. The Government also supports the Future Digital Inclusion Programme. Since 2014, the programme has helped over 1.4 million people to gain the digital skills they need for life and work.
In response to Covid-19 the Government invested over £195 million to support remote education. Part of this included delivering over 220,000 laptops and tablets over the summer term for vulnerable and disadvantaged children who would not otherwise have access. We are also making available 250,000 additional laptops and tablets (100,000 of these have been delivered since September) for disadvantaged children to supplement this in the event face-to-face schooling is disrupted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.