Amey Consulting donates Kindle e-readers to help Caerphilly Council close the ‘digital divide’ among local families struggling with the effects of Covid-19

Amey Consulting donated 40 Kindle e-readers to help Caerphilly Council close the ‘digital divide’ among local families struggling with the effects of Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many people to stay at home, where they are reliant on online technology to stay connected. Those without the money or means to invest in digital products have been disadvantaged, cut off from online services and support. As part of its efforts to reach out to local communities, Amey Consulting has donated 40 Kindle e-readers to Caerphilly County Borough Council in Wales for use by digitally excluded households.

The Welsh valleys have experienced comparatively high levels of deprivation since the closure of the coal mining and steelworks industries decades ago. Amey Consulting’s Welsh business team, based in Cardiff, have been seeking ways to support disadvantaged communities in the region as part of its community engagement programme.

Amey was familiar with Caerphilly, having completed many highways design and active travel projects in the borough. Local Amey infrastructure and regeneration managers were aware of how Caerphilly had been impacted first by Storm Dennis and then coronavirus, and saw an opportunity to give something back.

Throughout the pandemic, digital technology has proved crucial in enabling people to work, study and socialise, as well as helping to combat isolation and loneliness. However, a ‘digital divide’ has opened up across the UK between those with digital access and those without, with deprived areas disproportionately affected. According to government statistics, 15 per cent of people in the Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen area are not online, with 23% lacking basic digital literacy.

Caerphilly Council highlighted the issue of digital exclusion among its vulnerable groups, prompting Amey to offer 40 Kindle e-readers equipped with a 4G chip. The devices offer free ongoing access to online resources without the need for wifi service.

The council decided to use the donation to address the difficulties experienced by children and young people following the closure of schools. Children have been sent home, often with little or no thought given to their family’s ability to support learning online. Households without laptops, tablets or PCs, or unable to afford wifi subscriptions or unlimited mobile data, are severely disadvantaged. The stress of being forced to stay at home is compounded by lack of access to online social communication and entertainment.

The council worked in partnership with Caerphilly Parent Network – a resource providing information and support for local families – to equip the Kindles for use by schoolchildren to continue their learning and complete their homework. Families can use the devices to download resources such as ebooks, access support services and generally engage with the local community.

Cllr Sean Morgan, Caerphilly Council’s deputy leader, commented: ‘We’re very grateful to Amey for the generous donation of Kindles. These will provide an invaluable resource for many of our currently digitally excluded residents. They will help some of our economically inactive residents to access a wide range of services and practical help online.’