Danske Bank is supporting responsible business network Business in the Community Northern Ireland’s Digital Donations Appeal and is calling on other businesses to get behind the campaign.

The bank has already donated 60 recycled laptops for children and young people, and is encouraging other businesses to donate even one device.

Ofcom estimates that about 9% of children in the UK – between 1.1 million and 1.8 million – do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home. Many thousands live in a household with only a mobile internet connection meaning that they are unable to connect to their school, teachers or friends and may fall farther behind their peers.

The ‘disadvantage gap’ (disparity in learning and education outcomes between disadvantaged children and more affluent peers) is exacerbated during school holiday periods. Summer holidays can account for two thirds of the gap between rich and poor children at age 14. Not having access to devices/data to support ongoing learning throughout the school year can exacerbate this.

Business in the Community (BITC) is working with businesses through its Digital Donations Appeal to complement the work already being done by the Department of Education and the Education Authority to ensure support is provided to disadvantaged and vulnerable learners.

BITC is calling for businesses to support the Digital Donations Appeal in three ways:

  • Through cash donations to help purchase new and repurpose equipment
  • By donating new devices or devices that can be repurposed – including PCs, monitors, laptops and tablets
  • By encouraging staff to volunteer to help support schools with online digital skills support

Organisations are already beginning to step up and the campaign is being championed by Danske Bank, Belfast Harbour, Power NI and the PSNI.

David Thompson, Head of Digital Channels at Danske Bank, said: “In Northern Ireland digital inclusion is a tale of two halves. In our own customer base, digital touchpoints have far outnumbered other customer interactions for some time. And yet, many households still don’t have either the technology, the internet access, or sometimes just the skills to participate fully in today’s digital world.

“The pandemic has highlighted the true extent of the digital divide here. We’re committed to helping to tackle to issue through our role as a Digital Champion, working in collaboration with others in the private, public and third sectors. And we’re calling on other businesses to play their part by donating even just one device.”

Kieran Harding, Managing Director, BITC said: “We are asking businesses to help children and young people, our workforces of our future, to get the digital access they deserve. By donating devices, data usage or volunteering their time for digital skills support, businesses are making remote learning less of a struggle for families going through a challenging time.

“The situation is critical, and it is more important than ever to plug the digital gap. A&L Goodbody, Allstate NI, Arup, Belfast Harbour, BT, Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Danske Bank, Henderson Group, Heron Bros, Liberty IT, Power NI, Progressive Building Society, PSNI, RPS, Sensata and Unosquare have already donated to the appeal in a variety of ways, but we need more businesses to get involved to ensure we can achieve our aim of getting 10,000 children the resources they need to reach their full potential.”

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I welcome this initiative and the support offered by BITC and their partners to complement the current DE schemes to provide digital devices, free wifi and mobile connectivity to children and young people, including those in rural settings, who may not have had access to digital technology.

“My officials, along with Education Authority colleagues, have been working closely with the BITC team to ensure devices are made available for those most disadvantaged and vulnerable learners.”

Visit www.bitcni.org.uk for more information on the Digital Donations Appeal or to offer your support.