The team set out their aspirations to address the needs of thousands of people in Oxfordshire who are not online. Their vision is that by 2025, the majority of those who are not currently online will have the digital access they need.
Getting Oxfordshire Online is a new initiative that refurbishes donated devices and passes them to people who need them. It also helps people to access the data, training and support they need to get online.
The official launch of the initiative was held at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and was attended by 40 local philanthropists, businesses and delivery partners. These included representatives from the three device donation hubs that have been set up across Oxfordshire – Aspire in Oxford, SOFEA in Didcot and Bicester Green in the north of the county.
The initiative has been seed funded by Oxfordshire Community Foundation, Oxfordshire County Council and Our Common Good, and is now seeking further donations of money as well as devices to support the project over the coming years.
It was emphasised that whilst the pandemic is moving into a new phase, the need to get online has not abated. Charities working with disadvantaged people made the case that vital services are almost all now digital first, including access to school work, benefits, refugee support and job-seeking. A video with perspectives from people at the frontline of some of these needs was shared at the event.
Ed Vaizey, former MP for Didcot and Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, spoke at the event in support of the initiative. He said: “During my time in Government it was already apparent that digital poverty was an issue. However, since the pandemic, and now as more and more essential services move online, it has become clear that having digital access is absolutely a need not a luxury. I wholeheartedly support this ambitious and vital initiative, which I believe is the first to target beneficiaries of all ages across a whole county.”
Paul Donovan, a local philanthropist who has funded the early stages of the project, made a strong case for philanthropic investment in Getting Oxfordshire Online, explaining that since its inception, Oxfordshire Community Foundation and its delivery partners had set out a clear mandate and established the management and governance that would help it succeed.
Pledging to give a further £10,000 for the next stage of implementation, Paul said: “At Our Common Good we are interested in supporting social impact ideas that have clear potential for growth or replication. We were pleased to partner with OCF to help fund the initial development of GOO. We are now pleased to provide financial support for the next phase of the programme, and to encourage organisations and individuals in the county to get involved.”
Oxfordshire Community Foundation’s Chair Ian Busby closed the event with an appeal for local philanthropists to step up and support the next phase of the project. He said: “We are looking to raise £300k per year in order to supply around 3,000 free or low-cost devices to people in Oxfordshire per year. There is a significant return on investment for donors – creating value from otherwise wasted devices by putting them to good use for disadvantaged communities.”