The Rochdale Mesh Network

Rochdale Borough Council

Social Impact Award - Digital Poverty

Public Sector - Local Government

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Brief description:

Rochdale Council in partnership installed a Free to user mesh network for residents living in one of the most deprived and digitally excluded areas of Rochdale; College Bank, Lower Falinge and Freehold. It enabled the provision of large-scale outdoor Wi-Fi coverage, extended from key central points across the area. It provides a cost effective way for residents to access the internet working out at approx. 27 pence per household per month which has been paid for utilising a small pot of money we secured to support people to be digitally included. It allows residents FREE access to the internet when they choose in their own home, allowing individual choice and reducing the reliance and dependency on services for internet provision. Reducing isolation and improving social connectivity. We recognised that the most important thing to address the increasing digital inequalities was to give people access to the internet.

Why entering?

We believe that the strategy and system we implemented in Rochdale could be scaled up and rolled out in other boroughs. By highlighting the project and evidencing it's success we hope to see more organisations being bold and providing a similar service to their own residents. Digital poverty widens the divide between the haves and the have nots, for a relatively small amount of capital, some ingenuity, persistence and the will to succeed we can go some way to redressing the balance. Our approach to Digital Inclusion through the Mesh Network has been hailed as best practice and innovative and enabled far more households to benefit from free internet access than it would have been purchasing individual data and packages for people. It has also supported equity of opportunity for people when they most needed it and by not restricting access to the internet at set times and content (apart from some adult content) it has meant people can use the internet how they choose in the safety of their own homes that is not to be under estimated. Alongside this we have linked in digital support and access to equipment through the Digital Library and it has provided some people with their first experience of accessing the internet.

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