Inequality caused by coronavirus days: the digital divide

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Aid organizations say that the poorest sections of the society are also heavily affected by the coronavirus outbreak due to lack of internet access.

According to the news of the Guardian newspaper, there are no internet connections in 1 million 900 thousand homes in the UK. In addition, millions of people make their phone calls, health services, education, social assistance needs and applications over the prepaid phone.

Charities and foundations working with difficult society segments say that the coronavirus epidemic means destruction for millions of people across the country, the poorest of the society and without digital access.

“The problem is unimaginable,” says Helen Milner, director of the Good Things Foundation, who struggles with the problem of exclusion due to digital access gaps within the UK.

“Those who use prepaid telephones and those who do not have the money to access the internet find themselves in a situation that is closed to their homes, completely disconnected from the society and lacks communication facilities with the outside world,” he continues.

Choice between food and internet

A woman living in London explains that she has to choose between filling her belly and getting an internet quota because her possibilities are limited. Speaking to the Guardian, the woman says she now spends about half her weekly budget on her internet access quota so her adolescent daughters can learn from home.

“We have a little over £ 100 a week budget. Before the curfew, I was spending £ 10 for internet access, now I have to spend £ 30-40 a week,” she says.

“I and my two daughters share a phone between us and I have to limit the time they spend on the internet because I can’t afford to get more internet access. Also, I have to leave home to get an internet credit, which makes me very worried. I can send emails that need to be sent to electricity, gas and water companies. I can’t even stay online. Now we can only eat two meals a day, my money is enough. “

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Those who do not have access to the Internet

The UK’s leading internet service providers have agreed to remove the data quota of fixed internet line recipients during the coronavirus outbreak, but it is of no use to 1 million 900 thousand households that do not have a fixed connection at home, or 25 million 900 thousand people who can only access the internet from prepaid lines. Over a quarter of all mobile phones used in the UK are prepaid.

The elderly, the most vulnerable, asylum-seekers, refugees and the poorest families are affected by this situation. Those who cannot afford to have an internet connection or contract phone subscription to their homes are compelled to pay for prepaid phones.

Old man starving for a week

“The problem is not just loneliness and isolation from the outside world,” says Jane Caldwell, director of the Age UK charity, East London, who works with seniors.

“A man we reached last week hadn’t eaten for over a week because he didn’t have enough money to buy credit on his phone and reach someone, and he didn’t know who to ask for help. there are those who plead with the healthcare professionals and ask for their phones to reach them. ”

Women exposed to domestic violence

A volunteer organization that supports women in Manchester reported that almost 75 percent of the thousand women they support use prepaid phones.

“Especially, women who are exposed to domestic violence are very disconnected with the outside world,” said Rose Ssali, from Mama Health and Poverty Partnership. “Most of them do not have their own phone or internet access. Now we are trying to find funds to deliver them with prepaid prepaid phones by hiding them in the food packages we take. So that we can at least call someone when they need help,” he continues.

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Refugee, mother and penniless

Jo Dougherty of the group Happy Baby Community, working with asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking, explains that pregnant and newly born women are seeking ways to maintain their connection with healthcare.

“We will never exaggerate if we say that this will quickly turn into a life and death issue.” or they just stay without internet connections. ”

Reflections of the discussion on politics

The main opposition Labor Party’s shadow woman and equal rights minister, Marsha de Cordova, said that it is unacceptable that people have to choose between food and internet access, and added that there would be no more vital time to provide internet access to everyone without exception:

“The government should immediately take steps to reduce inequality in telephony and internet services, and ensure that no one is left alone without communication because they do not have digital access.”

The British government has launched a series of initiatives on digital access inequality that deepens with the coronavirus outbreak. Among them, there is an initiative called Devicesdotnow, which calls on some poor young people to provide laptops and provide hardware and free internet access for those who do not have access to telecommunications companies.

However, like the Apple Collective, the anti-poverty groups made up of people from difficult conditions say the announced steps are insufficient.

“We welcome the positive and embracing steps of the government and the telecommunications industry to mitigate the effects of Covid-19,” says Apple Collective, but the voices and reactions of those who have been completely excluded from the digital world have so far been heard. “

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