Coronavirus means we're Better ConNEcted
Over the last few months I've spoken to individuals, organisation and business leaders from across the North East, the UK and abroad about the challenges they have been experiencing due to the global pandemic. It has been both inspirational and sobering.
I do believe that in general this global pandemic has brought people closer, which is a pretty stunning achievement given the distance that has been physically put between us. Struggles with juggling family and work, helping our loved ones or being helped, life changing events without the normal celebration or network of support. Even in work, these human experiences have come to the forefront of discussions and I think I've learned more about the people around me than I ever did in the "normal" context.
That said, there is no doubt that there are also so many who have been left with deep grief, alone, isolated and helpless. These stories were not those being told very often, even if now they are starting to bubble to the surface. I have been at times overwhelmed with the work some, across all sectors, have been doing to provide for those most in need. But even with the changes in access to technology, the breaking down of social barriers and the amazing commitment of people - this pandemic has highlighted the deep division and inequalities that exist.
I still don't think we know what it is, but we all know the discussions around the "new normal". I'm not a fan of the saying as I firmly believe we are experiencing new normal's every day, however it is even worse in the context of access to Digital. Why? Because for many it has actually highlighted the norms that were there pre-pandemic. While access to digital has likely saved many during these last few months, not having access has created fear and suffering for people across our country. The technology, and in the most part access to it is there, unfortunately there still remain far too many barriers to it, primarily for those that need it most. As crucial services move online, what can we do to make things better?
There are a number of campaigns running to make change in this space. One of those has been co-created and facilitated by Just Fair North East with a partnership of organisations resulting in the "Better ConNEcted" campaign.
Part of the problem is that the internet is currently seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. Lack of access to the internet means some people cannot meet their basic needs. These people are unable to enjoy their human rights.
Just Fair - Digital Inclusion Campaign - Find out more
They are calling on businesses in the North East to donate funding or new data-enabled equipment for communities or groups in the North East. If you are a NE business and you want to help, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having been involved in a Digital Inclusion Round Table with our friends at VONNE earlier this year we believe that there is a strong movement of work being done in the region, and this is just one of the campaigns. Over the coming months we hope to get more involved and help discover and support new and innovative ways to ensure that people get access to the crucial services they need in the digital age. If you have ideas, talk to us as we would love to explore them with you.