Essex County Council has launched a new £1.88 million programme to support digital connectivity and tackle digital exclusion. I know many of my constituents here in Brentwood and Ongar still struggle with slow broadband speeds and connectivity, especially in more rural areas, so I am keen any support to improve the service is accessed by those who need it.
Working with key partners, Digital Essex will deliver the County Council’s Digital Strategy for Essex over the next four years, in line with the Everyone’s Essex agenda.
Plans include the development of a local grant scheme to provide additional funding to reach the final one per cent of rural addresses that still cannot access decent broadband.
This investment is in addition to £14 million spent by Essex County Council on upgrading digital infrastructure across the county with its superfast broadband programme, which has so far boosted connections to 160,000 homes and businesses.
Research shows that people who do not have the access, skills and confidence to use the internet are more likely to face inequalities than those who do. By making faster broadband and mobile internet connections available, Essex County Council is aiming to address inequalities, including employment prospects and poor mental and physical health.
Cllr Lesley Wagland OBE, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Renewal, Infrastructure and Planning, said: “This funding will help to ensure that no individual or business is excluded from digital opportunities due to lack of infrastructure, affordable access, equipment, or skills.
“Enabling people to build the skills they need to be part of the business recovery is key to a stronger economy for the future. That’s why it’s so important for us to give our residents the confidence to take advantage of digital services and employment opportunities.”
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Essex County Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community, Equality, Partnerships and Performance, said: “This new programme launch will support digital connectivity and inclusion initiatives, which are so important for our communities. We know that a lack of access to digital skills and services can limit opportunity – this funding will help to improve outcomes for our residents.”
Read more about Digital Essex and Essex County Council's Strategy.