Digital inclusion charity criticises public computer cuts

The Good Things Foundation says latest figures detailing cuts to public computer access are “of huge concern”.

Joe Lepper | 19th Mar 19
Image shows close up of computer keyboard

A digital inclusion charity has said it is concerned by the latest figures showing that just under 4,000 public computers have been cut from libraries and job centres.

Research published by the House of Commons library and commissioned by the Labour Party’s shadow culture team shows that 3,761 computers have been cut from libraries since 2010 and this year 352 have been axed from job centres.

Over the last year 689 public computers with internet access were cut from libraries, the figures reveal.

Helen Milner, Chief Executive of digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation said that although some of the computers may have been replaced by tablets “any cuts that risk worsening digital exclusion is of huge concern.”

“Good Things Foundation knows from our work with our network across the country that having access to a computer and having digital skills can greatly improve a person’s life chances and quality of life,” said Milner.

“That is why we note with concern the new research today from the House of Commons Library – commissioned by Labour’s shadow culture team –  which shows that almost 4,000 public computers have been cut from libraries and jobcentres.

She added: “The digitisation of our economy and our society brings huge advantages such as lower prices and more convenient services, but these advantages are not currently shared fairly or equally across society.

“Even people on the lowest incomes are able to save an average of over £500 a year through basic digital skills, as it’s easier to shop around for goods and services and get the best prices.

“Having no internet access can exacerbate the poverty premium. Access to computers and digital skills are key to being able to participate in the digital economy.”

Digital inclusive nation by 2028

Last November the Good Things Foundation called on the government to commit to making the UK a 100% digitally inclusive nation by 2028. The charity estimates 6.9m people in the UK (12% of the adult population) will remain digital excluded by 2028.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson blamed government austerity measures for the public computer cuts.

The cuts to job centre computer access comes at a time when all applications for Universal Credit have been moved online.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been contacted for comment.

Want to stay on top of the latest tech news in the third sector?

Get top insights and news from our charity digital experts delivered straight to your inbox three times per week.