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Level Up: Framework Are Running a 30 Day Fundraiser to Bridge the Digital Exclusion Gap

3 April 21 words: Emilie Mendham
illustrations: Smugcomputer Illustrations

Digital exclusion is becoming an increasingly important issue as the world becomes more and more digitised, with studies indicating that more than 90% of jobs now require a level of digital skill. While many homeless people have access to phones, they are increasingly being left behind by advancing technology. Throughout April, Framework are encouraging locals to utilise their own gaming skills for a fundraising campaign, Level Up… 

When a certain politician advocated for free internet access for all, it sparked a debate as to whether it is a necessity in our current world. This discussion first gained traction back in 2016, when the UN’s general assembly began to discuss the people left without access to this new virtual world we were busy building. And we all know what happened next: we were thrown into a world of uncertainty, and our reliance to survive depended on technology. The argument has never been more important. 

With voices calling from every corner of our social media feeds, sharing their opinion on whether or not people deserve access to the internet, it’s easy to forget the people being affected by the issue can’t even share their take on it all. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) states that in the last three months, 2.7 million people in the UK have not used the internet – that’s 4% of a population that spreads the majority of its information online. 

Access to technology is no longer simply a debate to be had among the privileged, it is a lifeline being cut in front of us. Gone are the days when having access to WiFi or smart devices to access it on is a luxury. With the pandemic increasingly making more jobs remote, Universal Credit schemes requiring an email address, and needing tech for access to education, it is clear digital exclusion is causing havoc among our society. When you begin to factor in an unstable living situation, it’s possible that people can’t even rely on having a concrete address where they can redirect the mail they need to stay in the know.

Tackling this issue is Framework, the Notts-based charity that believes everyone in our society deserves to live in a community of inclusion. They have modernised their approach thanks to COVID-19, which now means digital inclusion is a priority. With their beliefs embodied through housing, education, and every other means of support, they recognize the importance of having access to the online world we all are required to live in – especially in current circumstances. 

Throughout the pandemic, there have been many passing comments on how we’re fortunate to be living through this experience while we have access to all this technology. Without hourly BBC Breaking News updates, or livestreaming Boris Johnson’s Downing Street Briefings updating us on restrictions, it’s no wonder we all feel such a reliance on technology. From our phones which are never more than arms-length away, or the laptop I’m using to write this article on, digital exclusion runs deeper than simply not being able to post on Instagram; in today’s world, it dictates who gets to share their story and have their voice heard. When you remind yourself that only 59% of the world has access to the internet, only then can you understand the levels of exclusion happening worldwide. 

Access to technology is no longer simply a debate to be had among the privileged, it is a lifeline being cut in front of us.

Not just stopping at Internet access, Framework wants everyone to own devices too. This also includes gaming consoles. A lack of these for children can be highly detrimental – both education and socialisation has moved online, meaning they miss out on the chance to chat with friends and enjoy their downtime. Gaming devices have long been one of the most sought after toys for families, and losing out on the sense of community and belonging they can give children is yet another potential setback. Gaming can allow children to take charge of their own entertainment, and provide escapism for their everyday lives. 

To some, it still may not seem essential, but the overwhelming evidence that children who are excluded from society grow up to lead lives that are damaging to both themselves and others shows that it’s time we reconsider what is deemed essential in this digital age.

Launching Thursday 1 April and running for thirty days, Framework’s Level Up campaign gives people the chance to fundraise using their own digital challenge, and will hopefully provide over 1,000 people access to the internet and tech devices. Whether it is a virtual tournament, simulation game, or just smashing a personal record, you can help raise funds to give these young people a higher chance of avoiding digital exclusion. Raising just £100 could provide a tablet, and £300 can provide internet access in supported accommodation for a year. Work up £500, and you could provide someone with a laptop, potentially changing their entire life. 

In a world where people expect those living on the breadline to be sufficient with the bare minimum, Framework’s mission is a controversial opinion to some. But when we can't imagine our own lives without these devices, why do we think others aren’t deserving of the same? Though it would be easy to argue that an XBOX isn’t essential to good mental health,  the science actually implies otherwise. A study from Oxford University suggests that not only can it better your mental health, but also improve your coordination. And let’s not forget that one of the biggest challenges the pandemic has presented to our mental health is the lack of social interaction – something many of us are fortunate enough to still catch a glimpse of through phone calls or Zoom. Now imagine a world where even this isn’t possible. 

Framework’s Level Up campaign launches on Thursday 1 April and will run for thirty days. You can sign up to take part HERE.

Framework website

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