20 March 2020
WhatsApp, Facebook, Teams, Zoom, Netflix, telephone, email, Google Classroom.
Just a few of the tools I will be using to help me beat the blues and continue to function over the coming weeks. Like many, I will be turning to social media and streaming services for entertainment and connection.
I’ve got Wifi and a good data package but not everyone is in this position. Some people simply cannot afford it.
I work for KeyRing, where we support people to live independently in the community. About 60% of the people we support have a learning disability. Our model connects people with each other to build support beyond services. Friendships.
What happens though when we cannot facilitate those connections? When we have to ask people not to leave their house? Our support will continue but my worry is that people will revert to relying on serviceland. The people that we have worked so hard to connect with their community and each other will become isolated and dependent.
Peter in Somerset is currently self isolating. Like 35% of the people we support he does not have access to wifi. He isn’t feeling too isolated at the moment but he says he would love to be able to connect over internet with the people in his network.
When we looked at how we could run virtual hubs using video calling, the first remark was that this would take people over their data allowance. The fear is that people would ramp up huge bills as they try to stay connected in this difficult time. It’s easy to see how this could happen. We have numerous case studies where we have supported people to get out of debt.
Diane in Oldham tells me that some of the people she supports will regularly say that they have run out of credit on their phone. It is the reason why WhatsApp is so popular, you can text and call for free but only if you have enough data or access to wifi. People are used to popping out and using community-based wifi with 65% of the people we support telling us that they do exactly that. The library is one of the favourites. Most of the libraries are closed now and rightly so.
We are already producing guides so that those people who can are able to set up online meeting places. Even if it is just to complain about the lack of football on the TV. We want everyone to be able to join in. In 2020 this must be possible.
#Operation Wifi calls on the Government and partners in digital infrastructure to create an open and free to use wireless network to enable people in low income communities to get online. At a time of social disconnection people need to get online to be able stay connected during the current national crisis. #OperationWiFi
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