Digital access is a growing problem. Some families don't have easy access to devices like computers, laptops or smartphones. You might also have problems paying for enough mobile or broadband data.
The skills to use these devices and the internet are important to connect with others, access information and services.
Mobile and broadband data
The National Databank provides free mobile data, texts and calls to people. It’s like a ‘food bank’ for internet data. You need to be over 18 years old to apply and live in a low income household. Find your local online centre.
There are cheaper broadband and phone packages called social tariffs. If you are on benefits you may qualify for cheap, long term social tariffs. They are not advertised and don’t appear on price comparison websites. You can find more information from Ofcom or Money Saving Expert.
When looking for a solution make sure it is:
- Cheap. Is it affordable not just at the start but over time? Compare on price comparison sites. Ask about social tariffs which are not included on these sites.
- Handy. Is it easy to find out about, easy to apply for and easy to access?
- Enough. Will it meet my needs? Is it fast enough? Is there enough data? 10-15 Mbps should be fine for basic internet tasks. 30-40 Mbps should be fine for everyday internet use. 50-100 Mbps may be needed in larger households using the internet for activities such as streaming, gaming and video calls at the same time.
- Safe. Is your privacy protected?
- Suitable. Is it suitable for your situation and flexible if things change?
The Good Things Foundation have produced a guide for supporting people with mobile and broadband data.
Public WiFi and free internet access in public spaces is widespread. It can be unsuitable for some things.
Tips for safe use of public WiFi:
- Connect to a network you trust
- Don’t access personal or financial information on a public network
- Look out for secure websites
- Pay attention to alerts and warnings
- Disable file sharing
Access to devices
There are organisations who work with community groups and schools to provide access to digital devices for people who need them.
The Learning Foundation is a national charity that helps schools work with families to provide computers and access to the internet for all pupils.
Family Fund offers grants to families on a low income with a child under 18 years who has a disability or life-limiting illness. You can apply for a computer or tablet to support your child.
Solidaritech is part of Refugee Integration Yorkshire and Humber. Members of the Refugee Integration Service can request devices to help their clients.
Local digital inclusion programmes
These include device loan schemes, digital skills sessions in community venues, telephone helplines, information on organisations giving free SIM cards, and other support to help you get online.
Libraries have computers which are free to use. Many libraries allow you to book a session before you visit. Some libraries also have free WiFi networks. Links to find your local library and the services it offers are below.
BBC WebWise has a series of short films introducing topics on using email, using the internet, using mobiles and keeping safe online.
Learn My Way offers free online courses for beginners helping you develop digital skills
Ofcom’s tool allows you to check broadband and mobile coverage in your area