It’s an exciting time to be in Liverpool, with our mayoral elections taking place and giants roaming the city. There’s a lot of discussion about our role in 21st century Britain and how best to revitalise the local economy.
Where once we could rely on the docks for the lion’s share of our prosperity, sadly those days are gone. The return of cruise liners to the Mersey is great news but I believe technology and education are the real keys to our future.
Of course I would say that, I’m a self-confessed geek, but I’m not alone in this belief. Computer literacy is vital to employers in every sector these days and with reports that Liverpool is falling behind it’s something we must address. Digital inclusion has become too much of a political buzz phrase for my liking, but it’s still an important issue. The problems are twofold as I see it, access and skills.
The fact you’re even reading this suggests the Internet is pretty important to you, but not everyone agrees. According to a 2011 report by the National Office for Statistics only 77% of UK households have Internet access and roughly 8.2 million people have never been online
In Liverpool the situation looks particularly stark. Reports claim that nearly 100,000 local inhabitants don’t have Internet access or don’t use computers regularly and I find that very worrying. They’re excluded from work, education and social opportunities.
Many live in social housing and free public computer access is threatened with the closure of community centres and local libraries. Sure, there are cafes and bars with free WiFi around but you still need a device to use it on and most of these places are concentrated in the city centre anyway. What about other areas?
Liverpool recently missed out on a slice of the government’s £150m Urban Broadband Fund which could have helped extend high quality Internet access out to areas like Kensington, Everton and Anfield where it’s really needed. 13 cities bid for 10 slots and somehow we managed to finish in the bottom three. That’s truly shocking, just how bad must our bid have been?
It would be nice to read the document and find out but the council have denied all Freedom Of Information requests. They claim it falls under a non-disclosure agreement, but who with? Let me speculate. If the plan was simply to hand the money over to BT or Virgin in the hope they’d fix
everything then I’m not surprised we failed.
Throwing money at a problem isn’t always the solution. I’d like to see less wastage of seemingly redundant PCs that can be revived with a little TLC.
At Liverpool Linux User Group we’ve recycled donated machines to set up public access workstations for the Liverpool Social Centre on Bold Street. They’re now used by local activists and community groups on a daily basis.
If more companies and individuals donated unwanted computers to causes like this a grassroots movement could evolve. Something akin to the fantastic work being done at Access Space in Sheffield by James Wallbank and co. They offer a free computer to anyone who wants it but you have to build it yourself first. With help, supervision and all the parts provided of course.
This way people actually learn how things work and have a fighting chance of fixing them when something goes wrong. They also offer courses in all kinds of subjects. Education and access rolled into one.
If we really want businesses to relocate to the city we need a workforce with the skills and experience to take up the jobs. Fair access to technology and education no matter where you live is an important step.
Some of you may remember the days when we talked of the Information Superhighway. Our city needs to be in the fast lane and not stuck in the Little Chef car park fumbling around for the A to Z.
The council should be supporting more sustainable community-based projects rather than throwing money at the same old companies. Hopefully this snub will serve as a wake up call.
Race Online 2012 is the national campaign set up to help millions more people benefit from
access to the internet. It’s Liverpool are investing up to £100,000 in Liverpool in the form of grants of up to £10,000 through our Awards for All programme to support the Go ON it’s Liverpool initiative. For help applying for funding, there are four workshops being held over the next few weeks. Worth a pop.
Parklands High School
The Florence Institute
Broadgreen International School 4pm-7pm
Everton Football Club, 10.30am – 1.30pm
For more information and to book your place, contact:
or call 0161 261 4616.