Blog: Tech can help EB recover from lockdown

The current crisis has exposed how vulnerable some of us are. It’s time for a concerted effort across our town to help

Eastbourne Pier

Yesterday was a milestone for us. We loaned our 20th and final spare laptop to a local family who needed it to work from home.

There’s a been a lot of press coverage this week about the ‘digital divide’ between households that have tech and those with nothing. Like this family in Bristol who’re homeschooling six children with one phone. The lockdown has made problems harder to overcome – the barriers they face every day are higher still.

TechResort has been concerned about the digital divide since we launched seven years ago. Even before that, I saw first hand the lack of digital skills while working at Go ON UK, Baroness Martha Lane Fox’s charity. Around 20% of the country lacked basic digital skills then, and that number has barely moved since.

While we don’t have exact digital literacy numbers for Eastbourne, we know that thousands of people lack skills and kit. Our town’s age demographic means digital exclusion levels could be far higher than the national average.

We’ve seen from the students who’ve passed through our doors that learning a bit of tech is a great leveller. It builds confidence, and opens doors to new thoughts, experiences and careers. New jobs and companies have been created as a result of TechResort’s efforts, and they’ve helped our town’s economy diversify. Everyone wins.

It’s time to act

We’ve started thinking more widely about how Eastbourne can bounce back from lockdown. The TechResort directors went into a huddle recently, and produced this SWOT analysis. We’d love to hear what you think about it.

We’ll continue to 3D print protective face shields for as long as there’s demand – requests don’t appear to be slowing down. In addition, we’re actively working on three more projects:

This month we’re launching, a local online marketplace that’s easy for any independent shop to join and sell their products. They’ve suffered during lockdown and need all the help they can get. Right now many of them aren’t online at all, and the ones that are pay high commission charges. We can do better, and keep more money in town.

We’re also investigating how to create a local version of the popular Just Eat website. It’s a more complicated challenge, and we’ll post updates on these as we have them.

In June we’re planning to launch a crowdfunder to raise money for more laptops and socially distanced digital literacy sessions. It’s possible to share skills while staying safe, and we can make a difference here.

Longer term we want to launch a ‘Digital do tank’ in the centre of Eastbourne where any individual or business can get free or cheap tech advice. And with our new 3D printer farm and other tools we’ll be able to help with rapid prototyping requests. We’ve had so many people express an interest in this kit, and we want to bring it to everyone.

There are plenty more things we’d like to see happen. Our air is cleaner now, for example, and we’d like it to stay that way. With improved tech skills and connectivity, working from home or local co-working space a couple of days a week would become a reality for more people. We’d be happier and more productive too. While we can’t effect larger changes on our own, we’ll champion these ideas whenever we get the chance.

It’s time for a conversation about Eastbourne’s tech, and serious commitment from our leaders. Please tell us what you think below, or get in touch.

Thanks to Anna Owen for the photo

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