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Strand 2 - Collaborate with partner groups to improve digital skills and inclusion

Digital platforms are generally the default option for accessing public services, information, entertainment and each other. Those who are offline, and not capable of using the internet, risk missing the benefits that the
internet can offer.

Digital inclusion is about making sure that people have the capability to use the internet to do things that benefit them day-to-day – whether they are individuals or businesses.

Most people will need to interact with a digital system in their lives, such as an online job application, even if they don’t have the skills to do so. Digitally excluded people can lack skills, confidence, and motivation, along with having limited or no access to equipment and connectivity.

At Ashford Borough Council we want to do what we can to help prevent so many people being digitally excluded. Being able to help our residents is key to everything we do, where they can’t access our services online we offer assisted digital help and telephone appointments.

With around a quarter of the UK population having some type of disability, digital accessibility is a key focus on our website development roadmap as we do not want to exclude any of our users. Regular monitoring of our website’s accessibility is ensuring that we remain compliant with this important regulation.

COVID-19 highlighted the part that technology plays in the community, particularly engagement. Using hybrid meeting technology to encourage greater engagement with our communities enabled more of our residents to participate in local democracy; and whilst the government has not agreed that hybrid meetings can form part of the formal machinery of local democracy we will continue to develop our approach in order to take advantage of wider engagement and make improvements to our carbon footprint.

Superfast broadband and mobile coverage are part of the essential digital infrastructure needed by residents and businesses especially following the Covid-19 pandemic. We will continue to pro-actively support the rollout of superfast broadband and improvements to mobile coverage across the borough.

What we will do

  • Feasibility study around Community Wi-Fi projects. 
  • Work with KCC and partners on projects to help develop skills and trust.
  • Use our social media to highlight scams, good practice and credible sources of information.
  • Proactively monitor and take action to ensure our website continues to have good accessibility standards.
  • Continue to work with broadband providers to support improved connections and increase investment.
  • Continue the coordination of the Ashford urban area Fibre To The Premises rollout and ensure other planned rollouts are continuing at pace.
  • Take a leading role in coordinating and promoting programmes such as the Gigabit voucher schemes and community fibre partnerships.
  • Proactively engage with Mobile Network Operators and Mobile UK to progress the Shared Rural Network and improve mobile connectivity in the borough.