The www.rebootproject.uk platform - which launched today - is a step-by-step interactive guide for charities, local voluntary networks and schools to combat digital exclusion in their neighbourhood. The pattern library approach allows any group to customise a scheme for their users in their area. Packed full of information, tips and case-studies it breaks down the challenge into manageable steps. Here we hear from Chris Ashworth, Head of Public Benefit at Nominet about the purpose of Reboot.
Firstly, thank you for taking a look around Reboot. We’re glad you’ve found us and I sincerely hope that the resources we’ve compiled are of real value to you and your community.
If someone has pointed you towards the site, you’re likely facing a real digital challenge in your community, your parish, your school or your town due to the Covid-19 crisis: the chronic lack of access to a device and (often) connectivity by the people who need it the most right now. It may be a family of a student who can’t access their education or a ‘shielder’ who is anxious about leaving their front door but in desperate need of a way to contact loved ones or the GP.
The team behind Reboot have been working on this very issue for years. We’re made up of passionate advocates for digital inclusion: leading charities like Good Things Foundation, national digital skills coalitions like FutureDotNow, social responsibility folks at Accenture and Lloyds Banking Group, web wizards like Third Sector Labs and the team from Nominet, who keep the UK’s internet namespace running smoothly.
We came together under FutureDotNow at the start of the pandemic to launch DevicesDotNow because, even though digital exclusion was already a major social issue, that moment of lockdown made the challenge profoundly worse. But we probably don’t need to tell you that. If you’re here, you’ll have witnessed the impact first-hand as your services suffered, as your most disadvantaged students were shut out of online learning or as the relationship with your users diminished as they locked down in their homes with no means of communicating with the outside world.
It’s been a terrifying time for many – isolating, lonely and confusing. While we responded nationally to the challenge via DevicesDotNow – and managed to reach over 11,000 vulnerable people with devices and connectivity (thanks to an incredible team and incredible supporters) – we also noticed that we weren’t the only ones coming together and standing up to the challenge of digital exclusion. It was happening everywhere – it was people like you.
Schools were finding solutions, community groups were mobilising, local businesses were dusting off laptops and friends or neighbours were sharing devices with families in their street. Sometimes, these informal versions of DevicesDotNow merged into Mutual Aid groups doing it in a coordinated fashion with local authority appeals – and there were even national appeals from Vodafone. During every week of working on DevicesDotNow, I was asked by different groups of all shapes and sizes, ambitions and resources how we were addressing the challenge because they were finding it tough. What was our process? How did we know who needed what device? How do we recondition the devices? What on earth do we do about connectivity?
The answers were often of a similar nature each time and the solution almost always much simpler and easier than first thought. And in short, that’s why we created Reboot. We want to provide some of the answers to unblock those barriers and support the many people like you, nationwide, who are working to get old and unused devices into the hands of their wider community.
It matters because you are the people who can truly reverse the digital exclusion that is dividing our society. Reaching over 11,000 people via DevicesDotNow has been incredible, but when the reality is that 1.9 million people are locked out of the help they need, we simply can’t do this alone. The solution is you – your schools, community groups, local voluntary organisations and neighbourhood teams. You can help make this happen and we want to support you each step of the way.
If you’re feeling inspired but uncertain of how to start, here are some important things I’ve mentioned to every group I’ve spoken to since March:
- It’s pretty easy to get your users connected and, when it’s broken down into steps, you won’t need more than your passion to get it done. Have faith!
- No, you don’t really need lots of IT people to figure this out. Things have moved on and it’s actually fairly simple.
- But even if you do need IT support, there’s loads of it out there on your doorstep. Just ask around – you might be surprised.
- As a society, we aren’t used to recycling or donating digital equipment – although we happily pass on everything else!
- We really (really) should be better at it. It helps the environment, plus it’s pointless having kit lying around gathering dust when it could be a lifeline for someone else.
- Between 11 and 40 million useful devices are sat around lonely and in need of a new home. That’s insane. We’ve got to get out of that cluttering habit and build a better normal than we have right now.
- Old devices are actually perfect for this sort of mission. Laptops from 2010 will magically return to life as super-fast chromebooks in a few clicks.
- And, surprisingly, old donated kit is far more likely to be used by those who receive it because they’ll be much less scared of damaging it or thinking they’ll run into debt.
- Buying 1.9 million new devices is, honestly, impossible. But recycling less than 5% of what isn’t being used is…absolutely possible.
For everything we have learned along the way via DevicesDotNow, you will know so much more than us when it comes to your area and your people. You will know the parents at the school, the local businesses that always step up, the best places to ask and advertise locally. You’ll know which of your colleagues won’t take no for an answer and who is most likely to volunteer a few days to help wipe and restore devices. Most importantly, you probably have a far better understanding of the needs and challenges facing your local area and are in the best position to do something meaningful about it. That is why Reboot exists; we are putting the method and the means into the hands of every community and providing you with the support to make it really happen.
Click on the get started button at www.rebootproject.uk and let’s walk you through the steps that will give you the insights and tools to make a big change in your community.
Chris and the Reboot team
Reboot was built in partnership with the FutureDotNow collation and Accenture as a follow up to the DevicesDotNow emergency appeal. The platform was developed by Third Sector Labs. You can find out more about www.rebootproject.uk on the site or email reboot@nominet for more information
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