The Cost of Digital Exclusion (And How to Address It)

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, transforming the way we access information, manage our daily lives and interact with essential services. Especially post-pandemic, this digital revolution presents both opportunities and challenges for public services. While online platforms have streamlined service delivery to enhance citizen engagement, a significant portion of the population remains on the other side of the digital divide.

The Social Cost
While financial constraints are real, the consequences of digital exclusion extend far beyond. Older adults unable to connect with friends or family online feel isolated, low-income households struggling to pay bills or find employment opportunities without solid internet access get frustrated and students that can’t use online learning resources get left behind in the classroom. Approximately 1.7 million households in the UK still lacked internet access in 2022, according to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee. This disparity is further highlighted by Ofcom’s Technology Tracker, which revealed that 10% of DE households lack internet access.

The Economic Cost
The digital divide has a significant economic impact. A report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee found that a lack of digital skills costs the UK economy a staggering £63 billion annually, so equipping citizens with the necessary skills and devices is a sound investment for the economy, but finding the funds to pay for it can be a stretch too far.

The World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Risks Report emphasises the growing importance of lifelong learning in the digital age, making bridging the digital divide even more crucial. Access to online resources and learning platforms empowers citizens to develop new skills and stay engaged in a constantly evolving world.

The Environmental Cost
Addressing the digital divide requires a focus on innovative and sustainable solutions. The constant acquisition of new devices not only puts a burden on capital expenditure, but also contributes to the growing problem of e-waste generation. A report by the WEEE Forum finds the UK heading to be Europe’s biggest e-waste contributor per capita (masked only by Norway’s much smaller population), yet we have the third-lowest collection rate on the continent at thirty percent. Refreshing and repurposing the devices you already have offers a sustainable, cost-effective solution that can also help address digital exclusion in our communities.

The Low-cost Solution
Here's where ChromeOS Flex is a game-changer, allowing anyone to breathe new life into old Windows and MacOS computers and extending their lifespan while reducing the total economic impact of technology for public services. It's a win for sustainability too, by keeping otherwise serviceable laptops in use for a few years longer, but most importantly, ChromeOS Flex empowers innovative departments to help citizens in digital poverty to access online services with ease. 

Since Google released ChromeOS Flex in 2022, thousands of organisations have converted Windows and MacOS computers and laptops into secure, fast and easy-to-manage ChromeOS devices that boot up quickly, get free automatic updates and don’t get viruses. In fact, there have been zero reported ransomware attacks on a Chromebook, ever - even without extra antivirus software, making it a viable cloud-first solution where multiple people might use the same device such as in libraries and job centres or when IT admin resources needs to be as streamlined as possible to reduce the time spent fixing remedial issues that could be better spent on other projects.

How to Get Started
Getech are Google’s #1 Premier Partner in the UK for Education and have also been working with enterprise, SMB, nonprofit and public sector customers for several years. As a value-added distributor, our suite of partner services help organisations undergo seamless change management and digital transformation activities, provide training and support to smooth out the steps to deployment and conduct audits that give key stakeholders the detailed knowledge they need about their estate to make fully informed decisions.

If you’re interested in putting ChromeOS Flex to the test in your environment, we offer a managed trial that helps you identify suitable use cases, outline success criteria and strategy considerations, spin up your Google Admin console and support you through each step of the way. Contact our team about Jumpstart and address the digital divide in your community today.