Cost-of-living crisis: Warning issued over ‘data poverty’

Labour MP warns over risk of ‘new and deep inequalities’ created by varying access to mobile internet

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A lack of internet access for society’s most disadvantaged “risks creating new and deep inequalities”, a parliamentarian has warned.

In a piece for PublicTechnology sister publication The House, Labour MP – and chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee – Darren Jones said that “internet access turned from a want to a need; and to be locked out, means being left out”.

Citing Ofcom figures, the Bristol North West MP said that there are currently about 1.5 million households around the UK with no access to mobile data.

“That’s 1.5 million households with worse healthcare, worse education, limited access to jobs or universal credit, and an increased likelihood of social exclusion,” he said. “Eight million more – or roughly one in three – are now struggling to pay telecoms bills.”

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He added “The scale of this issue is why I founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Poverty, originally to support a campaign for low-cost social tariffs for those in need, but also to bring like-minded colleagues together with key industry voices to explore long-term solutions to data poverty.” 

Jones said it had been encouraging to see various telecoms firms offer subsidised tariffs over the past year, but that more could be done. This includes “the introduction of a social inclusion fund and agreeing a digital right of way to public services”, he added.

“It is too common, both in politics and society, to see data as both a luxury and a ubiquity. In truth, it’s neither,” the Labour MP wrote. “As the cost-of-living crisis worsens, we’re now building on our State of the Nation report by making the comprehensive case for eradicating data poverty – to ensure the whole nation can share in the benefits of the internet.”


Sam Trendall

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