CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Address this digital divide urgently

18 February, 2021

‘The council must urgently address these digital exclusion issues’

• ONE of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been to heighten the digital divide.

We think that in Gospel Oak about 25 per cent of residents do not have adequate access to the internet, including those who cannot afford it.

It is not, of course, only children schooling at home who are deprived. Many older citizens struggle as do those whose English is not their first language.

Many months ago Camden Council “consulted” residents on how they would like to be contacted. This was done solely online!

Some Gospel Oak local volunteers printed out the questionnaire and had a stall in Queen’s Crescent to give those without digital access an opportunity to have their views known and sent them to the council. As with many such consultations the results have disappeared.

But there are more difficulties, even if you are internet savvy. I was told to book a medical appointment online. Alas the NHS app rejected my date of birth and it took me a whole afternoon just to get an appointment.

The council has just announced a consultation on the pedestrianisation of Queen’s Crescent which included a webinar. Unfortunately to register for this you needed a “security device” or a Microsoft account.

Councillors and officers may have had either or not. Some of us mere residents did not and could not register.

Some 52 hours before the webinar started an email came around to make registering simple. It is unclear who got the email.

I put this down to incompetence rather than an attempt to push through a very unpopular (for some) proposal. I suggested that a second webinar consultation be held.

The council must urgently address these digital exclusion issues as it increasingly relies on the internet in its communication with residents.

MICK FARRANT, NW5

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