A new report from Virgin Media Business is showcasing the positive social and economic effects that their investment in the region is bringing to its citizens, from helping to reduce the digital divide to battling homelessness
Back in early 2020, Virgin Media Business announced it had partnered with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to help deliver fibre optic connectivity to more than 1,500 public sector sites throughout the region.
The move came as part of the UK government’s broad Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN), with the £23.8 million deal in Greater Manchester the largest of its type in the country.
Alongside the rollout of roughly 2,700km of fibre, the project also included investment into various projects to help reduce digital exclusion, create local jobs, and tackle homelessness. Virgin Media said that, as part of this initiative, they would create 20 apprenticeships based in the Greater Manchester areas.
The programme was soon having a positive impact on the local economy, with a report released by the GMCA in March 2021, roughly one year since the project began, showing that £11.8m of overall local economic value, both direct and indirect, had been created as a result of the partnership.
Now, a new report entitled ‘Tackling digital inequality in Greater Manchester’ shows that the programme has been making significant progress, with some highlights listed below:
• Virgin Media Business’s investment in the Greater Manchester Technology Fund helped to provide 567 children at risk of digital exclusion with digital kit bundles, allowing them to continue learning during school closures at the height of lockdown. The fund has helped to support over 3,527 young people.
• A donation of £100,000 to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity’s “A Bed Every Night” programme helped provide sleeping spaces for the homeless.
• Local job opportunities have been created, with 80% of the LFFN workforce itself from the Greater Manchester area.
• Funding three digital skills programmes alongside the Prince’s Trust and GMCA.
• Having employed 27 apprentices, the programme now intends to increase this figure to 50.
• Employees volunteering over 4,000 hours to support local community project.
“This programme has brought local and central government together for a common goal, enhancing our digital capacity and helping our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region,” said Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. “It highlights the possibilities when private and public sector work side by side to level up our communities – from towns and cities to our most rural places and spaces, aligning digital ambitions to ensure that anyone, whatever their age, location, or situation, can benefit from the opportunities digital brings.”
Tackling the digital divide is never easy, but reports like these show the tangible benefits that communities can achieve when the public and private sector work together effectively.
Are UK telcos doing enough to help remove digital barriers and support their local communities? Hear from the operators themselves, as well as local authorities, at this year’s inaugural Connected North event