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COUNCIL MEETING: Internet still too expensive or frightening for some

COUNCIL MEETING: Internet still too expensive or frightening for some

A laptop for browsing the inernet

Many people in Leeds are turning their backs on using the internet due to affordability or language issues, a Leeds City Council meeting has heard.

During a discussion on digital inclusion – an initiative to get as many people using the internet as possible – members of a council committee heard how many cheaper tariffs offered by broadband providers were still far too expensive for those living in poverty.

A council officer also added that many older people are also scared off from using the internet, due to horror stories about online fraud and abuse in the news.

It follows a recent Leeds City Council report which claimed around 25,000 people across the district had no access to the internet, meaning getting access to help and services would be more difficult for them.

A Leeds City Council officer told a meeting of the Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Board this week: “Often the motivational barriers we would hear directly would be the broad ‘it’s not for me’, but as you started to have a deep and meaningful conversation, what that was often hiding were the real barriers. This is ‘I can’t afford any of this stuff’ or ‘even if a friend gives me it, or a council scheme does, I’m not going to know how to do it’.

“They could also have literacy and language issues which means they can’t access it. A lot of these would be hidden behind the broad motivational issue of ‘it’s not for me, I’m not interested’.

“We are starting to unpick what that motivation means. There is a fear. If you’ve never been online before, your experiences of the internet might largely be driven by what you hear in the news and what you read in the papers.

“It’s identity theft, and it’s fraud and scams and abuse on social media – not to downplay that, it is real, but it also happens in real life.

“Our work is to make sure people have support networks around them, and that should include friends, family members, council officers and frontline workers in health and social care.

“Those people are trusted in other walks of life.”

He added that broadband providers offer “social tariffs” to those on low incomes, but that the cheapest of these started at around £15 a month.

He said: “That is cheaper than the usual phone and broadband packages, but £15 a month is probably £15 too much for some of the people we are working with who are living in poverty.”

A report which went before another council committee last week suggested that a quarter of the city’s council housing tenants were not online, with reasons such as poverty, age and literacy problems given.

It is believed some groups in the city face “significant barriers” to accessing services digitally, which can lead to inequalities in health and services, according to the council.


Words: Richard Beecham, Local Demcoracy Reporter

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