Cost of living: Laptops For All launches free internet roll-out in Sheffield to combat ‘death spiral’ of digital poverty

Laptops for All, which provided 15,000 devices to schoolchildren during the pandemic have now launched a scheme to provide free internet to those in need.

By Yzabelle Bostyn
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 9:28 am

Over the next year, the scheme will be rolled out to 350 homes in Sheffield’s Southey Green’s Dryden Estate, where only 10 per cent have internet access.

David Richards, who founded Laptops for All in cojunction with The Star, said: “It discriminates across a huge demographic of people that either can't get online or have never been.

“If you don’t have the internet you can’t get a job, apply for Universal Credit, or see a doctor. It’s a death spiral, a vicious cycle.”

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David Richards of WanDisco who launched the Laptops for All appeal in conjunction with The Star

The effects of this digital poverty will not only impact these people but the wider community. David said: “In that demographic, people will turn to crime so they can afford to live.

“It's not so that they can get luxuries, it's so they can afford to feed themselves and heat their homes. This is the problem.”

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Provided in partnership with Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care and Chilypep, the scheme will provide essential services to Sheffield’s most vulnerable.

David said: “My belief is that internet service should be governed under the same principles as water, gas, electricity, and it should be always available to everyone.”

But David believes this problem will only get worse as the cost of living rises. He said: “It will affect a massive proportion of the city. People will be thrown into poverty.

“Because they don't have connectivity, people are going to be driven further away from them from the promised land of being able to have a decent life.”

After Sheffield, Laptops for All hope to roll out connectivity in South Yorkshire before going nationwide in the next few years.