Free Wi-Fi is to become available at 20 community buildings across Leeds as part of a leading digital skills programme being delivered by Leeds City Council.
Following the successful introduction of free Wi-Fi in most council buildings, the programme is now being extended into non-council community buildings with a particular focus on areas of the city where digital access and free public connectivity to the internet is currently limited.
The council is undertaking a process to determine the 20 community buildings where free Wi-Fi would be most beneficial, with plans to launch the programme later this year.
The move will be supported by the council also doubling its tablet lending scheme, to help more people develop their digital skills and benefit from being online. This tablet lending scheme is already the biggest of its type operating in the country.
As a further move to help combat digital exclusion, the council will also be offering a grants programme to help small organisations remove the barriers to digital inclusion for their staff and customers. The grants could be used to pay for connectivity, access to suitable equipment, online marketing and communications techniques or recruitment and training of staff or volunteers.
The tablet lending scheme and the first round of the grants programme have already been launched.
The investment is part of the council’s commitment to supporting the 100% Digital Leeds movement which aims to ensure that no one in our city is left behind and everyone can benefit from being online.
It aims to address the three main barriers to digital inclusion; lack of online skills or confidence, cost of equipment and broadband access, and lack of interest and motivation.
These new enhancements to the Leeds programme have come from £400,000 of funding from the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool, which enables local authorities to retain and invest the proceeds of growth in business rates. It has supported a range of projects across the region with a value of more than £11m since it was created in 2014.
Councillor James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for resources and sustainability said:
“Digital inclusion, support and learning can make a significant difference to help tackle poverty, reduce inequalities and is very much in line with the council’s vision of a compassionate city with a strong economy.
“I’m delighted that the extra investment from the Business Rates Fund will help us to support the 100% Digital Leeds movement so that even more of our residents can benefit from being online.
“Freely accessible Wi-Fi has proved to be incredibly popular in council buildings, so we are excited to be able to offer it to even more people across the city and especially in areas where currently such free access and support is limited.”
Councillor Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council and Chair of the Business Rates Joint Committee said:
“By pooling their business rates authorities in the City Region are able to invest millions into projects which support culture and business as well as improving skills and creating job opportunities.
“These projects will help people access jobs and training opportunities, support the City Region’s vibrant cultural life and make it an even more attractive place to invest.”
For more information, visit https://librarybookings.leeds.gov.uk